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  1. - Top - End - #181
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    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    Take for example something like Disgaea, where the actual feel of the game is built around things being 'gonzo' - combos leading to x10 or x100 multipliers in damage or survivability, ridiculously scaling content where you might push into that content as a glass cannon and need to literally kill everything on the level before they get a chance to move or you die, etc. It's not a well-balanced game - it's not trying to be, and it wouldn't have the feel that it does if there weren't totally OP options and combos to discover that made lots of other build choices irrelevant. Is it appropriate for a tabletop game? Perhaps not for most groups, but there are certainly groups for which something along those lines would be a unique and fun experience.
    Disgaea is also a single player game. By definition, it has PERFECT balance, because all players have exactly the same options and capabilities... It just so happens that in this case "all players" means "the one player ".

    Balance is important between players. Not between classes/races/civilizations/whatever is used as the player's avatar... But since players are usually limited to have the same number of avatars as each other, making the avatars balanced is how the designers create "player balance".

    Ars Magicka has widely different leves of power between mages ans knights, but again, what matters is the "player balance", which is achieved by giving players an equal (but not simultaneous) amount of time in the "power seat". It's like playing a D&D game where you and your friend alternate who plays the Batman Wizard and who plays the Fighter. It's a different approach to balance, but it's still balance.

    There will always be a skill gap, of course, but there's nothing designers can do about that. Besides, imbalances generated by different levels of skills are usually considered fair.

    Not to mention that even well balanced games more often than not offer options to make the game as imbalanced as you want. If D&D classes were perfectly balanced but the group wants a game of "The Adventures of Superman and Jimmy Olsen", that gap in power and agency could still be easily achieved by giving each character unequal class levels, loot and/or templates.
    Last edited by Lemmy; 2019-09-22 at 05:45 AM.

  2. - Top - End - #182
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lemmy View Post
    Disgaea is also a single player game. By definition, it has PERFECT balance, because all players have exactly the same options and capabilities... It just so happens that in this case "all players" means "the one player ".

    Balance is important between players. Not between classes/races/civilizations/whatever is used as the player's avatar... But since players are usually limited to have the same number of avatars as each other, making the avatars balanced is how the designers create "player balance".

    Ars Magicka has widely different leves of power between mages ans knights, but again, what matters is the "player balance", which is achieved by giving players an equal (but not simultaneous) amount of time in the "power seat". It's like playing a D&D game where you and your friend alternate who plays the Batman Wizard and who plays the Fighter. It's a different approach to balance, but it's still balance.

    There will always be a skill gap, of course, but there's nothing designers can do about that. Besides, imbalances generated by different levels of skills are usually considered fair.

    Not to mention that even well balanced games more often than not offer options to make the game as imbalanced as you want. If D&D classes were perfectly balanced but the group wants a game of "The Adventures of Superman and Jimmy Olsen", that gap in power and agency could still be easily achieved by giving each character unequal class levels, loot and/or templates.
    We can take Path of Exile as an example of something that isn't quite single player, isn't quite multiplayer, and so imbalance between builds can in fact become a practical imbalance between players (and their ability to participate in the game's economy, which is a major part of play). In essence, most builds can get through the campaign with some degree of player skill and perseverence. However, in the epilogue, there's a quickly ramping up filter that basically means a certain level of system mastery is necessary for a character to participate at that level at all. All builds can clear the campaign, many builds can clear white maps, less can handle red maps (but there's at least one build for each class and Ascendancy that is going to be somewhat viable in reds, it just may involve up to two orders of magnitude difference in how hard it is to get the needed gear), and for the really endgame content, different segments call for specialized builds to that particular part of the content (a deep Delve build is different than something that can handle Guardians and Uber-Elder, for example).

    The meta-game that is created by this is that, even though you can't expect your choices to lead to equal results even if there's nothing outright indicated that they're not equal options, players become more skilled at the metagame, building, etc, and see returns on that in being able to approach content that was over the power ceiling of their previous character attempts. Those power ceilings vary by about 2 orders of magnitude in the ranges that matter (arguably that stretches to 3 orders of magnitude variation in DPS for some special cases and very expensive setups, but at that point you wouldn't notice the difference in play since you're killing things in less than a frame).

    And, since being able to handle that content controls things like access to drops (which get traded to other players for gear, crafting materials, etc), there's a direct imbalance between players of the game. But at the same time, it creates a distinct feeling (which you either like, or you don't) that you don't get in other games that have more strict balancing.

  3. - Top - End - #183
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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    It just isn't (inherently) a problem when the character feels like dead weight - it's only a problem when the player has a problem with it.
    On the other hand, there is no inherent problem about being locked in a vacuum - its only a problem when you need to breath. By the way that is most creatures on earth.

    In my view balance is only useful in that it helps ensure that every player makes a meaningful contribution on the game. Even in the potted plant example I do recall that you/Quertus mentioned the plant helped out with the group's planning. There, that is a meaningful contribution. It was not made with the on-sheet abilities of the character but it is still there.

    How balance is important is that the closer to "perfect balance" the characters are (and the closer the difficulty is to matching that) the easier it is for everyone to make a contribution. Forget wizard or druid, consider two fighters from an even more bare-bones version of D&D. These characters are identical in every way except one deals 1d12 damage while the other deals 2d6. By my math one is putting out 0.5 more damage an attack than the other (averaged over time) and therefore one is strictly superior to the other. Yet it is not hard to imagine situations where they must work together to succeed.

    Now instead of 1d12 the weaker fighter deals 1 damage. Damage output drops from almost half to 1/8 of the pair's total damage output. Their health pools are still equal. I could change that but considering neither has any ability to keep enemies from rushing by and attacking the other I think this is enough it becomes extremely hard to arrange situations where the 1/8 damage actually matters.

    You can do it, but as balance shifts it becomes harder and hander. And even if you are in a role-play heavy group and just being a character with the party matters: That can be a narrow role sometimes and it is definitely one you want to know you are getting yourself into first. Which is the real problem with D&D, its not the lack of balance but the lack of communication by the system itself about it. Some other people have mentioned that before.

    My single favourite scene in any campaign I have played was in a campaign with very unbalanced characters. But in that one scene everyone did something that was needed to get us out a live. The mercenary fought, the survivalist did improvised first-aid, the local guide used local knowledge, the guy whose only ability was a phone made a very important call with that phone and the mystic had a moment of enlightenment and got us out of that mess. To me, that's better than perfect balance because of the diversity of it all. And it wasn't balanced but it wasn't so unbalanced that anyone had lost the ability to contribute.

    So really "can make a meaningful contribution" is the window of balance I think is required. How big that is can vary, so it is kind of an abstract measure but an important one despite that.

  4. - Top - End - #184
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    MonkGuy

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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by JNAProductions View Post
    It's much, MUCH easier to unbalance an already balances game than to balance an unbalanced one.
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  5. - Top - End - #185
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    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    We can take Path of Exile as an example of something that isn't quite single player, isn't quite multiplayer, and so imbalance between builds can in fact become a practical imbalance between players (and their ability to participate in the game's economy, which is a major part of play). In essence, most builds can get through the campaign with some degree of player skill and perseverence. However, in the epilogue, there's a quickly ramping up filter that basically means a certain level of system mastery is necessary for a character to participate at that level at all. All builds can clear the campaign, many builds can clear white maps, less can handle red maps (but there's at least one build for each class and Ascendancy that is going to be somewhat viable in reds, it just may involve up to two orders of magnitude difference in how hard it is to get the needed gear), and for the really endgame content, different segments call for specialized builds to that particular part of the content (a deep Delve build is different than something that can handle Guardians and Uber-Elder, for example).

    The meta-game that is created by this is that, even though you can't expect your choices to lead to equal results even if there's nothing outright indicated that they're not equal options, players become more skilled at the metagame, building, etc, and see returns on that in being able to approach content that was over the power ceiling of their previous character attempts. Those power ceilings vary by about 2 orders of magnitude in the ranges that matter (arguably that stretches to 3 orders of magnitude variation in DPS for some special cases and very expensive setups, but at that point you wouldn't notice the difference in play since you're killing things in less than a frame).

    And, since being able to handle that content controls things like access to drops (which get traded to other players for gear, crafting materials, etc), there's a direct imbalance between players of the game. But at the same time, it creates a distinct feeling (which you either like, or you don't) that you don't get in other games that have more strict balancing.
    Never having played PoE, but having played other similar games, I can only comment on general aspects, rather than on its specific case.

    I'm completely OK with different builds/options being unbalanced... A fighter who optimizes should be more effective than one that grabs random feats*...

    What has game developers have to make balanced is the "avatar" (class/race in RPGs, race/civilizations in RTS games, etc). Avatars can also have different focuses between them, which is also a good thing, but that means the devs should make the different focuses similarly effective, at least in the assumed base gameplay experience (e.g.: D&D balance is generally based on "combat-heavy open-ended adventure and exploration"... So having a "Farmer" class that is focused on staying home and working all day long, with no competence on combat, adventure or exploration would be bad design, even if it'd be super powerful on a completely unorthodox campaign focused on producing and selling wheat).

    - - -

    *Certain sub-divisions of player avatar should be balanced to an extent, however... These sub-divisions are those that reflect certain expected character archetypes (e.g.: in a game such as D&D, general, a basic mounted combat build should be about as effective as an basic archer build and a basic sword & shield build, even if all three options come from the same class. But options within each build could vary with effectiveness... i.e.: a player should be able to create and implement better sword & board builds as he grows in skill, knowledge and experience.
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  6. - Top - End - #186
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    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    On the other hand, there is no inherent problem about being locked in a vacuum - its only a problem when you need to breath. By the way that is most creatures on earth.
    Well... Also a problem when your internal body pressure is anything other than zero and parts of your body aren't resilient enough to resist the resulting expansion force...
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  7. - Top - End - #187
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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    But that is not inherent to the vacuum, that is still a matter of how your body reacts to it.

    I realize I didn't spend as much time on what that metaphor was about. It is true that it is the combination of situation (or the balance of the system) and the people in it (the players of the system) that create a problem. It is as you might say, a matter of taste. There is no fault on either side here. Well, the presentation as balanced is a problem, but that is not the unbalanced nature of the game itself. And then the rest it an attempt to get at the underlying issue, which is my theory of meaningful contribution and how people expect to make it.

  8. - Top - End - #188
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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lemmy View Post
    Well... Also a problem when your internal body pressure is anything other than zero and parts of your body aren't resilient enough to resist the resulting expansion force...
    That would depend on how the vacuum was achieved. A sudden onset of a vacuum, would indeed, result in literal explosive decompression, but if the vacuum were achieved over the course of several hours, allowing your body to adjust, then breathing would be the only real problem.
    "Sleeping late might not be a virtue, but it sure aint no vice. The old saw about the early bird and the worm just goes to show that the worm should have stayed in bed."

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  9. - Top - End - #189
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    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    But that is not inherent to the vacuum, that is still a matter of how your body reacts to it.
    Well... The same thing goes for breathing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mutazoia View Post
    That would depend on how the vacuum was achieved. A sudden onset of a vacuum, would indeed, result in literal explosive decompression, but if the vacuum were achieved over the course of several hours, allowing your body to adjust, then breathing would be the only real problem.
    Are you sure? I'm not a doctor, but doesn't the human body have a limit to how much it can lower its internal pressure without its veins bursting or something? And isn't that limit higher than zero?
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  10. - Top - End - #190
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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lemmy View Post
    Never having played PoE, but having played other similar games, I can only comment on general aspects, rather than on its specific case.

    I'm completely OK with different builds/options being unbalanced... A fighter who optimizes should be more effective than one that grabs random feats*...

    What has game developers have to make balanced is the "avatar" (class/race in RPGs, race/civilizations in RTS games, etc). Avatars can also have different focuses between them, which is also a good thing, but that means the devs should make the different focuses similarly effective, at least in the assumed base gameplay experience (e.g.: D&D balance is generally based on "combat-heavy open-ended adventure and exploration"... So having a "Farmer" class that is focused on staying home and working all day long, with no competence on combat, adventure or exploration would be bad design, even if it'd be super powerful on a completely unorthodox campaign focused on producing and selling wheat).

    - - -

    *Certain sub-divisions of player avatar should be balanced to an extent, however... These sub-divisions are those that reflect certain expected character archetypes (e.g.: in a game such as D&D, general, a basic mounted combat build should be about as effective as an basic archer build and a basic sword & shield build, even if all three options come from the same class. But options within each build could vary with effectiveness... i.e.: a player should be able to create and implement better sword & board builds as he grows in skill, knowledge and experience.
    The point I'm trying to make is about identifying games with a strong feel or personality, where that could not have been achieved by a version of that game which was designed to be balanced. It might be that you wouldn't personally like any of those games, but that wouldn't change the broader point of whether or not there are regions of the design space that some people enjoy, but which are actively harmed by placing balance first and foremost. So I'm not looking for your personal approval of whether you're okay with the game - it's okay for things to exist and be published which we wouldn't personally enjoy. I'm not personally a fan of games like DOTA, League of Legends, etc, for instance, but it's still useful to take a step back and try to understand that yes, there are people who do enjoy those games and it's worthwhile to understand that. Especially when it points out exceptions to some absolute statements like 'balance is always good'.

    In Path of Exile for example, there's a kind of loose archetype-level balance, but it doesn't hold up if you look at it closely. The game has 7 classes, six of which can specialize in 3 ways and the 7th which has a sort of multiclassing gimmick. So that's effectively 19 archetypes. They are definitely not all equally valid choices in the long run. One could look at that and say 'well, that's wasted design effort - why make a class no one should use?'.

    The trick is twofold. One is that there are gimmick builds which are enabled by something which would normally be a generally bad choice, but within the context of that gimmick, it can be transformed into a good choice (but only if you do it a very specific way). The second trick, which I'm personally not a huge fan of, but I can see that it is effective: every league (3 month interval), the developers buff and nerf things not in a way which is designed to make them balanced, but in a way which is designed to suppress the current meta and promote something that was historically unpopular into the meta.

    So rather than balancing the options of the game at a given instance, they intentionally create unbalanced options in order to get the player base to try aspects of the game they've been ignoring, and then sweep that around to cover the design space that they built out as a framework. Even though as I said, I'm not a huge fan of this (mostly because it invalidates previously viable characters whose gameplay I enjoyed), it seems to be an extremely effective method of giving each league of the game a very distinct feel to the player base, and it drums up and sustains excitement from veteran players. There's also the counter-push where the very experienced players can feel challenged to come up with something off-meta that's better than whatever the developers are currently pushing.

    So as a case study, whether we personally approve of it, it's an example of how designing intentionally for imbalance can actually make a game more appealing.

  11. - Top - End - #191
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    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    I never said an unbalanced game can't be enjoyable, or that balance should be the main goal.

    The main goal of a game should be being a fun and enjoyable experience... It's just that far more often than not, being balanced makes it much more to achieve that goal.

    There are quite a few seriously unbalanced games that I thoroughly enjoy, including D&D... But the vast majority of them would be even more fun if they were at least reasonably balanced.
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  12. - Top - End - #192
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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lemmy View Post
    I never said an unbalanced game can't be enjoyable, or that balance should be the main goal.

    The main goal of a game should be being a fun and enjoyable experience... It's just that far more often than not, being balanced makes it much more to achieve that goal.

    There are quite a few seriously unbalanced games that I thoroughly enjoy, including D&D... But the vast majority of them would be even more fun if they were at least reasonably balanced.
    There are other posts in the thread which make claims like 'balance is always good' or 'make a balanced game, then you can unbalance it to taste', which is the main reason I'm giving these examples. The point from my perspective is more:

    We spend a lot of time talking about balance when considering the design of games, but perhaps that's not actually a productive way to approach the design problem. Instead, we should consider what kinds of experiences we want people to have in playing the game. Certain games which are 'bad' games from a balance perspective (the measure by which games are being asked to be judged in this thread) are extremely memorable and stick in people's heads long after more balanced games have kind of blended together. I'm looking at that and noticing that, in fact, a lot of the really fun or inspiring moments that are memorable about those games come from points at which the balance of the game has broken down in some particular way. That is to say, it's the very act of breaching balance, coupled with the fact that it's the player's own agency which is responsible for the breach, that created that strong impression.

    To put it simpler - it's fun to get away with crazy OP stuff, and those are the moments that get people telling stories about their gaming experiences 10 years later.

    I think that's an important lesson and tool in the design toolkit, which if one took a balance-focused design perspective would be very counter-intuitive. So it seems worth calling attention to as a counter-point to the general mantra of 'more balance is better'. This would rather be saying (if you wanted to design towards the goal of memorable experiences): risk as much imbalance as you can get away with, so long as it doesn't cross the threshold where it takes over the entire game experience. You'd be looking for burst-like moments of extreme imbalance, whose consequences on the overall gameplay and meta are relatively compartmentalized.

    D&D 3.5 has the imbalance part, and even the burst-like aspects (when people discover new exploits or gimmicks), but it commits two errors with respect to it that cause that imbalance to be a frequent problem. One error is that it doesn't really communicate expectations, so many players may never get to feel that burst of 'I got away with something' if they're misled by the system. The other error is that some of those imbalances don't have the burst-like profile, but pretty much spread and takeover the game as the only viable options. D&D 3.5 casters feel special and distinct among tabletop RPG archetypes, but choosing to play a caster doesn't feel like you're being particularly clever (though there is definitely a positive reinforcement in the feeling of learning just how to really take advantage of a caster's brokenness, e.g. in the transition from seeing wizards as blasters to seeing wizards as battlefield control).

    However, the end result is just that some people encounter it and have fun, others encounter it and have bad experiences, and we're left to explain that after the fact. Imbalance is involved with why the ones who had bad experiences didn't have fun, but the tricky thing is (at least within the lens of this design tool) - the problem isn't necessarily involved by holding all else constant and just removing the imbalance. Instead, this suggests that what you need to do is to try to preserve the imbalance, communicate it more clearly, and make its consequences more local or individual rather than letting it be too much of an obvious meta.

  13. - Top - End - #193
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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lemmy View Post
    Well... The same thing goes for breathing.
    That was actually the point, maybe I should of used the word "still", the problem caused by a creature in a vacuum is still dependent on both the creature and the vacuum.

    I think more generally with many RPG's balance or lack there of is they are structured like a balanced game. There is no shifting meta, just one stale world where I can't play a wizard-slaying monk because the strong archetypes are also grouped thematically. Everyone is given equal footing, the results of these choices play out over months of you investing in a character's character. Plus the whole presentation thing which might still be the main issue.

  14. - Top - End - #194
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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post

    We also have this strange dissonance between "the GM fixed it" and "the character was a constant annoyance".

    On the one hand, it doesn't sound like the GM made the character balanced - he just made it closer to balanced. Which, while it ties well into my concept that balance is a range, not a point, your story makes it feel like maybe your character was in a grey area of "maybe not really in the balance range".

    On the other hand, it doesn't sound like the GM made the character balanced - he just made it balanced right now. There was no guarantee you'd be balanced tomorrow - in fact, you generally figured that you wouldn't be.
    -----
    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    The next bit of understanding my PoV is that people are idiots. You've got a whole range from tables that nerf Monks because they're too OP, to conventional Playground wisdom that Monks are utter garbage.

    I don't want some idiot chosen at random to dictate what they think is "balanced" into a game . Because, even if they're right, most everyone will think that they're wrong.
    I’m not sure I understand how these two points work together.

    Many DMs are bad at balancing classes, on that we agree. From that, my conclusion is that game designers should aim for balance, subject to tweaking by individual DMs, instead on dumping responsibility for balancing classes on the DM, many of which are new to the hobby.

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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    However, the end result is just that some people encounter it and have fun, others encounter it and have bad experiences, and we're left to explain that after the fact. Imbalance is involved with why the ones who had bad experiences didn't have fun, but the tricky thing is (at least within the lens of this design tool) - the problem isn't necessarily involved by holding all else constant and just removing the imbalance. Instead, this suggests that what you need to do is to try to preserve the imbalance, communicate it more clearly, and make its consequences more local or individual rather than letting it be too much of an obvious meta.
    Sure, but, using 3e as an example, even if the imbalance were disclosed and spellcasters couldn’t act in most lanes, there are some players who want to play non-spellcasters with heroic-level powers. If there is *ONE* such player in my group, I won’t choose that system, because I know that player won’t have fun.

    So unless you have a decent range of powerful archetypes, you end up with a pretty niche system. Or, to put it another way, there is an audience for almost any product, if you are willing to narrow the niche sufficiently.

  16. - Top - End - #196
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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by patchyman View Post
    Sure, but, using 3e as an example, even if the imbalance were disclosed and spellcasters couldn’t act in most lanes, there are some players who want to play non-spellcasters with heroic-level powers. If there is *ONE* such player in my group, I won’t choose that system, because I know that player won’t have fun.

    So unless you have a decent range of powerful archetypes, you end up with a pretty niche system. Or, to put it another way, there is an audience for almost any product, if you are willing to narrow the niche sufficiently.
    I think its fine for things to be niche, and I'd certainly rather have my choice of a wide array of niche systems, some of which I won't like, than have every system be mainstream. But that said, D&D (3ed included) turned out to pretty much be the opposite of 'niche' when it comes to the hobby, at least in terms of player count. It's in part that gap between 'huh, this is imbalanced, only a few people should like it' and 'this is one of the most popular table top RPGs' that makes me question whether this talk of balance actually captures the real factors that matter underlying people's gameplay experiences with the system.

    I'd take the argument that people were tricked into it by the system miscommunicating what it is in the first years of its release, but 3ed has been out for almost two decades, and retained a pretty significant portion of its market even when subsequent editions came out. So I don't think people are just being fooled, forced, or deluded - there's actually something there that people respond positively to, which more balanced systems weren't able to lure them away from.

  17. - Top - End - #197
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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by patchyman View Post
    -----


    I’m not sure I understand how these two points work together.

    Many DMs are bad at balancing classes, on that we agree. From that, my conclusion is that game designers should aim for balance, subject to tweaking by individual DMs, instead on dumping responsibility for balancing classes on the DM, many of which are new to the hobby.
    Good question. Let me try to explain.

    When the game designers design a game as cool and diverse as 3e for one specific balance point, most people are going to say that they failed. And they'll probably be right. And, if they design for a specific campaign style (like an encounter day of exactly 6 encounters with exactly 2 short rests), and some portion of the player base wants to play something else, that can further throw balance off. So, the game designer cannot create acceptable balance. So they should just accept that is going to be imbalanced, and provide the players resources to understand this.

    So, what can succeed is for each table to create their own balance, tailored to what they believe is balanced. Not as a "one and done" thing, but as an ongoing conversation. So, one table nerfs the Monk, another bans Knock, and everyone's happy.

    Personally, if we're going to care about Balance, I prefer the 3e style, where the game is chocked full of unbalanced components, and the players can mix and match as desired to create something balanced to their table.

    Now, if books were like video games, and updated themselves to the latest version automatically, then maybe game designers could create balanced games, filled with patches as they carefully evaluate feedback from the community. If "online content" were done right, and every piece of 3e were carefully and continuously rebalanced, and you could look up each version of the rulings online? Then, yeah, the designers could aim for balance. And, if the designers believed that the Playground was right, then the tables that are nerfing Monk would think that the 3e designers were crazy.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2019-09-23 at 07:03 PM.

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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    I think its fine for things to be niche, and I'd certainly rather have my choice of a wide array of niche systems, some of which I won't like, than have every system be mainstream. But that said, D&D (3ed included) turned out to pretty much be the opposite of 'niche' when it comes to the hobby, at least in terms of player count. It's in part that gap between 'huh, this is imbalanced, only a few people should like it' and 'this is one of the most popular table top RPGs' that makes me question whether this talk of balance actually captures the real factors that matter underlying people's gameplay experiences with the system.

    I'd take the argument that people were tricked into it by the system miscommunicating what it is in the first years of its release, but 3ed has been out for almost two decades, and retained a pretty significant portion of its market even when subsequent editions came out. So I don't think people are just being fooled, forced, or deluded - there's actually something there that people respond positively to, which more balanced systems weren't able to lure them away from.
    Well, I don't know what portion of the total market share 3, 3.5 and its clones represent in 2019. Personally, I believe that a good portion of that is inertia/nostalgia, but I think it is unlikely that I will convince you or that you will convince me, and this isn't really something that is verifiable one way or another.

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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Good question. Let me try to explain.

    When the game designers design a game as cool and diverse as 3e for one specific balance point, most people are going to say that they failed. And they'll probably be right. And, if they design for a specific campaign style (like an encounter day of exactly 6 encounters with exactly 2 short rests), and some portion of the player base wants to play something else, that can further throw balance off. So, the game designer cannot create acceptable balance. So they should just accept that is going to be imbalanced, and provide the players resources to understand this.

    So, what can succeed is for each table to create their own balance, tailored to what they believe is balanced. Not as a "one and done" thing, but as an ongoing conversation. So, one table nerfs the Monk, another bans Knock, and everyone's happy.

    Personally, if we're going to care about Balance, I prefer the 3e style, where the game is chocked full of unbalanced components, and the players can mix and match as desired to create something balanced to their table.
    I disagree with this, but I can at least understand your point.

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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    It actually is kind of a problem for me, especially as a DM if I try to organize a session.


    Once the power scaling gets out of hand, especially bad in 3.5 Level 10+ for any spellcasting classes. Even at their best, the Martial Classes weren't noticeably able to perform feats better than someone like say Movie Aragorn while the Casters were already able to One-Shot Infinity Thanos at the same level.



    It's very hard to create a balanced fight with noncasters in a party. If I don't specifically tune the fight to be against the Casters, the Martials basically get trashed like all hell. And most of the work is done by the Casters anyway.

    The Martial players might as well not show up. Especially since if I play "random" and let the Monsters pick randomly, they'll liable to One-Hit Ko the non enchanted martials with One Hit. So I usually purposefully have to attack the only ones that can actually tank the hit.

    It also doesn't help the casters feel resentment when they have to a waste a spell to purposefully protect the less useful Martial Classes.


    Lot of my players actually seem to be split, as some prefer Low Fantasy GoT and others wanna Shoot Supernovas at each from DBZ.


    I can't exactly find a suitable compromise, even when I stay at level 5-10 because these Wizards are...pretty Munchkinly and hate having to reset levels.



    D&D just has alot of difficulties with compromise, as I think it's designed to play in a fairly specific way, with a fairly specific kind of player. Noticeably, all the martial players stopped joining and I honestly didn't find Number Crunching every week for Wizard Munchkins much fun.

    So I stopped DMing and interacting with that group eventually.


    Well, that was my experience anyway.
    Last edited by DragonclawExia; 2019-09-23 at 10:18 PM.

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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by patchyman View Post
    Well, I don't know what portion of the total market share 3, 3.5 and its clones represent in 2019. Personally, I believe that a good portion of that is inertia/nostalgia, but I think it is unlikely that I will convince you or that you will convince me, and this isn't really something that is verifiable one way or another.
    It is because balance is good and important but it is not the only thing players might want out of the game. And when the main alternatives are D&D4 and D&D5, 3.5 does a lot of things better than its successors that might appeal to certain players. The main thing would be options and making characters out of the ordinary.

    When people complain about 3.x, that is mostly about balance (between casters and non-casters), about how complex the game is and about how the absurdity of high level options does not fit any of the setting descriptions.

    All of those are valid. All of those are things later editions do adress.

    But the complexity is not too much for every player, for many it is not a problem at all. And the other two can be tolerated/mitigated, when the system does something you want and alternatives do not.

    This is why people still play 3.5, Pathfinder and mixes/derivatives. You don't only have to ask what 3.5 lacks that 5 or 4 do better, you also have to ask what 3.5 does better than those, if you want to understand people who do not switch.




    I think, there would be far less people stickong to D&D 3.5, if other crunchy non-D&D systems would be better known.
    Last edited by Satinavian; 2019-09-24 at 04:50 AM.

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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by DragonclawExia View Post
    It actually is kind of a problem for me, especially as a DM if I try to organize a session.


    Once the power scaling gets out of hand, especially bad in 3.5 Level 10+ for any spellcasting classes. Even at their best, the Martial Classes weren't noticeably able to perform feats better than someone like say Movie Aragorn while the Casters were already able to One-Shot Infinity Thanos at the same level.



    It's very hard to create a balanced fight with noncasters in a party. If I don't specifically tune the fight to be against the Casters, the Martials basically get trashed like all hell. And most of the work is done by the Casters anyway.

    The Martial players might as well not show up. Especially since if I play "random" and let the Monsters pick randomly, they'll liable to One-Hit Ko the non enchanted martials with One Hit. So I usually purposefully have to attack the only ones that can actually tank the hit.

    It also doesn't help the casters feel resentment when they have to a waste a spell to purposefully protect the less useful Martial Classes.


    Lot of my players actually seem to be split, as some prefer Low Fantasy GoT and others wanna Shoot Supernovas at each from DBZ.


    I can't exactly find a suitable compromise, even when I stay at level 5-10 because these Wizards are...pretty Munchkinly and hate having to reset levels.



    D&D just has alot of difficulties with compromise, as I think it's designed to play in a fairly specific way, with a fairly specific kind of player. Noticeably, all the martial players stopped joining and I honestly didn't find Number Crunching every week for Wizard Munchkins much fun.

    So I stopped DMing and interacting with that group eventually.


    Well, that was my experience anyway.
    That would be why I generally tend to dismiss the "GM will fix it!" arguments. GMing is a hard enough job at the best of times; having to make sure the party isn't woefully out of balance just makes it harder.

    As far as the "but people still play D&D argument goes"... D&D has a market presence and power beyond anything any other game can match. It's the first game people are likely to hear about, the most commonplace one in stores and by far the easiest to find games for. It doesn't need to be the best, it just has to be good enough. Using "but people play it" as an argument is frankly almost dishonest and it irritates me that it always gets rolled out eventually.

    It's similar with the "diversity" argument. D&D has never, in any of its incarnations, been diverse. It's always been highly restrictive, simply due to using classes and levels - but not just that, because 3E in particular absolutely delights in telling players "no" at every turn. What it does have is, again, a mountain of material that few other systems can match. So it achieves diversity by volume, because you're likely to find something that works. If you can afford all of those books and the time to pore over them, that is. And if you wanted to play a martial character at high levels before ToB came out (I think in 2007)... tough luck.
    Last edited by Morty; 2019-09-24 at 05:20 AM.
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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    To expand a bit on Morty's points...

    Quote Originally Posted by Morty View Post
    That would be why I generally tend to dismiss the "GM will fix it!" arguments. GMing is a hard enough job at the best of times; having to make sure the party isn't woefully out of balance just makes it harder.] that works. If you can afford all of those books and the time to pore over them, that is. And if you wanted to play a martial character at high levels before ToB came out (I think in 2007)... tough luck.
    And even if GMing were really easy, each minute spent trying to fix a broken system is a minute not spent creating a cool campaign or, you know... actually GMing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Morty View Post
    As far as the "but people still play D&D argument goes"... D&D has a market presence and power beyond anything any other game can match. It's the first game people are likely to hear about, the most commonplace one in stores and by far the easiest to find games for. It doesn't need to be the best, it just has to be good enough. Using "but people play it" as an argument is frankly almost dishonest and it irritates me that it always gets rolled out eventually.
    Not to mention that people playing a game doesn't mean that game isn't poorly designed, or that it wouldn't have more players and/or be more enjoyable to the ones it has if were better designed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Morty View Post
    It's similar with the "diversity" argument. D&D has never, in any of its incarnations, been diverse. It's always been highly restrictive, simply due to using classes and levels - but not just that, because 3E in particular absolutely delights in telling players "no" at every turn. What it does have is, again, a mountain of material that few other systems can match. So it achieves diversity by volume, because you're likely to find something that works. If you can afford all of those books and the time to pore over them, that is. And if you wanted to play a martial character at high levels before ToB came out (I think in 2007)... tough luck.
    Not only that, is extremely easy to add unbalanced options to a balanced game. I mentioned this quite often already, but even if every class in 3.5 were perfectly balanced, it'd still be possible (and really easy) to have Thor and Hawkeye in the same team. Just make the two character at different levels, with different loot and different templates. The only difference is that it'd actually be honest to the players.
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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by Morty View Post
    That would be why I generally tend to dismiss the "GM will fix it!" arguments. GMing is a hard enough job at the best of times; having to make sure the party isn't woefully out of balance just makes it harder.

    As far as the "but people still play D&D argument goes"... D&D has a market presence and power beyond anything any other game can match. It's the first game people are likely to hear about, the most commonplace one in stores and by far the easiest to find games for. It doesn't need to be the best, it just has to be good enough. Using "but people play it" as an argument is frankly almost dishonest and it irritates me that it always gets rolled out eventually.

    It's similar with the "diversity" argument. D&D has never, in any of its incarnations, been diverse. It's always been highly restrictive, simply due to using classes and levels - but not just that, because 3E in particular absolutely delights in telling players "no" at every turn. What it does have is, again, a mountain of material that few other systems can match. So it achieves diversity by volume, because you're likely to find something that works. If you can afford all of those books and the time to pore over them, that is. And if you wanted to play a martial character at high levels before ToB came out (I think in 2007)... tough luck.
    Quote Originally Posted by Lemmy View Post
    To expand a bit on Morty's points...


    And even if GMing were really easy, each minute spent trying to fix a broken system is a minute not spent creating a cool campaign or, you know... actually GMing.

    Not to mention that people playing a game doesn't mean that game isn't poorly designed, or that it wouldn't have more players and/or be more enjoyable to the ones it has if were better designed.

    Not only that, is extremely easy to add unbalanced options to a balanced game. I mentioned this quite often already, but even if every class in 3.5 were perfectly balanced, it'd still be possible (and really easy) to have Thor and Hawkeye in the same team. Just make the two character at different levels, with different loot and different templates. The only difference is that it'd actually be honest to the players.
    For point #1, "GM will fix it" - forget that! In 3e, with its breadth of content, the players will fix it. The group sets a balance range, the group balances to that range. The GM should rarely if ever get involved.

    For point #2, "people still play it" - … well, I agree that one cannot necessarily draw universal conclusions from such data. I can only anecdotally say that I still play it, and give my reasons why. Is 3e poorly designed? At times, sure (Truenamer). But it is (accidentally) brilliantly designed to give the players maximum agency to create characters at whatever balance point they desire. That, and the (often less fixable) failings of many other systems, are among the reasons I continue to play 3e.

    For point #3, "diversity" - well, I don't actually get your drift. I can say that my group was playing rocking martials through epic level as of, well, whenever the Epic Level Handbook came out.

    For point #3b, "Thor and Hawkeye through divergent loot/level" - IME, that is a bandaid, and a poor one. Gold is a river, XP is a river. Hawkeye will catch up, to the point where he doesn't feel like Hawkeye, and/or Thor doesn't feel like Thor anymore. IME, the players need the full build control offered by 3e to make characters who remain Thor and Hawkeye. When I tried this technique, I actually had to have my "Hawkeye" a) leave the party for a few levels, and b) give away much of his loot before he returned. It would have been a lot of work for the GM to get them to fix it for me, so I found excuses to handle it in character.

    One thing I haven't tried is giving everyone infinite free (no LA) templates. Then "Hawkeye" takes no templates, while "Thor" takes lots. Perhaps in this scenario, "Hawkeye" never catches up?

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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    You seriously think getting 4+ people with different self-interests, desires, and personalities to balance things on their own, without help from the DM?


    ....I think you don't understand why most Democracies settle for a Representative Style of Government over direct Democracy. You seriously don't think everyone has time to debate over every little balance detail every session.


    I don't think most people come to a D&D session to roleplay a Lawyer at Court.

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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    For point #1, "GM will fix it" - forget that! In 3e, with its breadth of content, the players will fix it. The group sets a balance range, the group balances to that range. The GM should rarely if ever get involved.
    I doubt it goes well without the GM at least helping them communicate with each other. Besides, not every players knows about, has access to or wants to use those options. On a grander scale... Not every game has the same breadth of content as 3e.

    Besides, the very fact that you suggest the players balance it out means you know most players prefer a balanced game.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    For point #3, "diversity" - well, I don't actually get your drift. I can say that my group was playing rocking martials through epic level as of, well, whenever the Epic Level Handbook came out.
    Sure... I still have players that play Rogues right next to Wizards... All that means is that they can have fun despite the game being balanced. IME, nearly every time a serious balance issue shows its ugly head in a multiplayer game, coop or competitive, every player dislikes it.

    I'll say it again: balance isn't required to have fun... But it sure makes it far easier to achieve. The overwhelming majority of players of every game I ever played don't expect perfect balance, but also don't want their avatars to be grossly underpowered (or overpowered) compared to their fellow players.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    For point #3b, "Thor and Hawkeye through divergent loot/level" - IME, that is a bandaid, and a poor one. Gold is a river, XP is a river. Hawkeye will catch up, to the point where he doesn't feel like Hawkeye, and/or Thor doesn't feel like Thor anymore. IME, the players need the full build control offered by 3e to make characters who remain Thor and Hawkeye. When I tried this technique, I actually had to have my "Hawkeye" a) leave the party for a few levels, and b) give away much of his loot before he returned. It would have been a lot of work for the GM to get them to fix it for me, so I found excuses to handle it in character.
    Not really... Lock Hawkeye at 6th level and give him extra feats and cooler bows/arrows whenever he's supposed to "level up". Then make Thor a 12th level character instead and give him a template that grants massive bonuses to physical attributes and access to weather-based spells, then give him a few feats and new spells with each "level up".

    That's just me thinking of a quick solution as I write this post, of course. I'm sure I could think of even better ways to add Thor and Hawkeye in the same group when balance is not a concern. And so could you... Unbalancing games is super easy. Balancing them... Not so much.

    I doubt many people would accept to play Hawkeye for long... But, hey... If your group really is composed of this super-rare breed of players who don't care whether or not their friends are vastly more powerful and effective than their own, it shouldn't be a problem.
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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lemmy View Post
    Not only that, is extremely easy to add unbalanced options to a balanced game. I mentioned this quite often already, but even if every class in 3.5 were perfectly balanced, it'd still be possible (and really easy) to have Thor and Hawkeye in the same team. Just make the two character at different levels, with different loot and different templates. The only difference is that it'd actually be honest to the players.
    There's a difference between adding a random blob of imbalancing effect to a game by fiat and having a game which is designed in such a way as to make use of things which don't get along with balance. Analogies aren't really a precise way to make points, but I'm going to go back to the difference between a painter who makes a picture with no variations in luminosity and then someone comes along and adds a dab of bright paint to it, versus a painter who uses their expertise to make intentional use out of variations in luminosity in the composition of the work from the ground up.

    If we're playing 4ed D&D and we just have one player have a character 10 levels above the rest of the group, we're not going to get anything similar to the feeling of playing, say, 2ed D&D in Darksun and getting deep into all the zany, broken OP stuff that edition and setting has. Having a basic class feature kill all vegetation within hundreds of feet as a side-effect of spellcasting is flavorful, helps establish the premise of the setting as serious, and definitely steals the spotlight from characters who aren't engaging in the whole preserver/defiler/psionicist side of things (though, you can be a giant insect with paralytic venom and a bunch of other racial perks, so there's that...).

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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    There's a difference between adding a random blob of imbalancing effect to a game by fiat and having a game which is designed in such a way as to make use of things which don't get along with balance.
    This argument is valid, although the analogy that follows it is pretty terrible, IMHO.

    The thing is... Most players of most games prefer balance (specially in competitive games, but also in coop, since most people don't want to play sidekicks for their friends, at least not for prolonged periods of time). And it's much, much easier to unbalance a good game than balance an unbalanced one. Therefore, it's usually far more productive to make these games balanced let the rare exception (players who are okay overshadowing or being overshadowed by their friends) try to adjust it.

    No one expects perfect balance. Every game I know of is at least slightly unbalanced, even those where players are given exact the same options and abilities. That's ok.

    However, severe unbalance actually harms variety, because it effectively removes options from the game. The RPGs I played the most in my life are 3.5 and Pathfinder, but I can still name literally hundreds of feats, spells and archetypes that, despite being allowed in most games I played, I have literally never seen anyone use because they are either too weak or too powerful. All they do is increase page count, making the game more expensive and less welcoming to new players.

    More than once I have seen people actually give up on games (including RPGs) after realizing how limited their avatars are, compared to their friends'. Most players don't care about being the strongest possible character, but they do care about being more or less on par with their peers.
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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    There's a difference between adding a random blob of imbalancing effect to a game by fiat and having a game which is designed in such a way as to make use of things which don't get along with balance. Analogies aren't really a precise way to make points, but I'm going to go back to the difference between a painter who makes a picture with no variations in luminosity and then someone comes along and adds a dab of bright paint to it, versus a painter who uses their expertise to make intentional use out of variations in luminosity in the composition of the work from the ground up.
    As an artist, that's not how art works, like, at all. Variations in a composition create balance, they don't remove it.

    Changes in color, intensity and volume (how much area a color takes up) are all intentional decisions designed to draw the viewers attention to to certain points in an image. Even the untrained eye can notice when an image is unbalanced. Lines will draw your attention away from the image, colors will draw your eye away from the focal point.

    The fact that there are brighter or dimmer points to an image is because it is one image. A painting is more akin to a single class, with it's notable features, it's dead levels, and it's nifty powers; rather than a game as a whole.

    Balance isn't about some communistic-parody of everything being a dull gray. It's about clearly unequal options being presented as equal. Not same but equal. Things can be different and equal, a pound of feathers and a pound of steel is equal, but different.

    Game balance is about equilibrium. A stable point where one side is not insane and another is ineffective.

    Side-note: monochromatic paintings and monoluministic paintings can be AMAZING, and they are arguably harder than regular painting.
    Last edited by False God; 2019-09-24 at 09:58 PM.
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    Default Re: Why does the party need to be balanced?

    Quote Originally Posted by DragonclawExia View Post
    You seriously think getting 4+ people with different self-interests, desires, and personalities to balance things on their own, without help from the DM?


    ....I think you don't understand why most Democracies settle for a Representative Style of Government over direct Democracy. You seriously don't think everyone has time to debate over every little balance detail every session.


    I don't think most people come to a D&D session to roleplay a Lawyer at Court.
    Shrug. It's really not that hard. When there's 4 PC golf carts / power wheels sitting next to the group balance sample riding lawnmower, and the 5th and 6th players bring a snail and a Porsche, you whip out the illustrative diagram (or the clue-by-four), no GM intervention required.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lemmy View Post
    I doubt it goes well without the GM at least helping them communicate with each other. Besides, not every players knows about, has access to or wants to use those options. On a grander scale... Not every game has the same breadth of content as 3e.
    Oh, agreed. "Balance to the table" is much easier in systems like 3e that give the players adequate tools to succeed.

    And, IME, it goes best if the GM stays out of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lemmy View Post
    Besides, the very fact that you suggest the players balance it out means you know most players prefer a balanced game.
    Not really my experience, actually. IME, most players prefer an imbalanced game.

    That said, nearly every group has a finite balance range - few could handle "Thor and the Sentient Potted Plant", for example.

    When I say "balance to the table", I'm talking about the table's balance range. Just like when I say, "don't be a ****", I'm including each table's individual social contract. I happen to prefer tables with big ranges.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lemmy View Post
    Not really... Lock Hawkeye at 6th level and give him extra feats and cooler bows/arrows whenever he's supposed to "level up". Then make Thor a 12th level character instead and give him a template that grants massive bonuses to physical attributes and access to weather-based spells, then give him a few feats and new spells with each "level up".

    That's just me thinking of a quick solution as I write this post, of course. I'm sure I could think of even better ways to add Thor and Hawkeye in the same group when balance is not a concern. And so could you... Unbalancing games is super easy. Balancing them... Not so much.

    I doubt many people would accept to play Hawkeye for long... But, hey... If your group really is composed of this super-rare breed of players who don't care whether or not their friends are vastly more powerful and effective than their own, it shouldn't be a problem.
    That is… inventive. Remove the sacred cow of "advancement" from the equation. And, while it technically would work, most people I've gamed with would balk at that. In fact, that would be a bigger and more common no-sell than the Thor and Hawkeye disparity (which many groups actively seek).

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    There's a difference between adding a random blob of imbalancing effect to a game by fiat and having a game which is designed in such a way as to make use of things which don't get along with balance. Analogies aren't really a precise way to make points, but I'm going to go back to the difference between a painter who makes a picture with no variations in luminosity and then someone comes along and adds a dab of bright paint to it, versus a painter who uses their expertise to make intentional use out of variations in luminosity in the composition of the work from the ground up.

    If we're playing 4ed D&D and we just have one player have a character 10 levels above the rest of the group, we're not going to get anything similar to the feeling of playing, say, 2ed D&D in Darksun and getting deep into all the zany, broken OP stuff that edition and setting has. Having a basic class feature kill all vegetation within hundreds of feet as a side-effect of spellcasting is flavorful, helps establish the premise of the setting as serious, and definitely steals the spotlight from characters who aren't engaging in the whole preserver/defiler/psionicist side of things (though, you can be a giant insect with paralytic venom and a bunch of other racial perks, so there's that...).
    You've said this before. It's really evocative imagery, and I want to agree with you, but… I'm drawing a blank as to a good argument for why adding a vegetation-killing, psionic-powered, turbo-leveling Wizard-transforms-into-OP-action-economy-Dragon to a "normal-but-boringly-balanced" kitchen sink campaign is somehow a "lesser" experience than having the imbalance baked right in.

    That is, if the GM literally says, "I've perfectly fixed 3e balance" - and they're right - but also says "homebrew and bring whatever unbalanced thing you want" (so long as the final product is within the group's balance range?), how to argue that that's worse than a GM who says, "follow RAW" (so long as the final product is within the group's balance range?).

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