Game "Balance" - the missing assumptions of social-dynamics

robertsconley

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You really didn't get into the 3rd we magic stuff. Targeting hit points is the least efficient way for a wizard to deal with an enemy. Especially one that is very likely to have low Will saves.

3rd ed hadn't been out long at all when the blaster wizard had been repeatedly demonstrated to be the least effective approach to magic.

But if you insist on using a bad example to prove a weak point, that is your choice.
You didn't get into any specifics other than Hold Person and Grease. As for being a effective wizard, the common types, battlefield control, buffing, debuffing, all rely on the wizard being part of a team or being able to summon a team. Not fighting solo.

The point of the ever-smoking bottle is create terrain to provide cover, to buy the time that I need as Boog to either retreat or better terrain to fight the wizard. The ever-smoking bottle has a 100 foot radius.

Reviewing many of the spells used for battlefield control, buffing or debuffing. Many require you to see the target, have a way smaller area than a 100 foot radius cloud of smoke, or a close range that shorter than 100 feet.

Again to stress this doesn't make Boog superior or better, it just means that playing Boog I have options even against an attacker who is flying and invisible.
 

CRKrueger

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You really didn't get into the 3rd we magic stuff. Targeting hit points is the least efficient way for a wizard to deal with an enemy. Especially one that is very likely to have low Will saves.

3rd ed hadn't been out long at all when the blaster wizard had been repeatedly demonstrated to be the least effective approach to magic.

But if you insist on using a bad example to prove a weak point, that is your choice.
Rob’s strength is his weakness here, and this is why I think this is a pretty useful tangent to Tenbones OP. Rob is all about the setting balance, he’s approaching things from that view. I don’t know how much time he’s spent reading The Gaming Den, Giant in the Playground, or other sites where everything is MathHammered to death and mechanics completely divorced from setting is the default assumption, but those sites are full of strategies someone trained in previous versions of D&D would never even think of in a million years. It’s true that quite a lot of them require complicity from the GM that allows them, but, coming from the same viewpoint, why wouldn’t they?

One thing is for sure though, the “Yes I could” “No you couldn’t” examples are never fruitful, because everyone assumes a setup where they have counters and the other side doesn’t.

Using NWN as an example though is very, very weak. It has a tiny fraction of available spells and magic items, not to mention lacking the flexibility of action of even the worst GMed game on the planet.
 

Stevethulhu

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You didn't get into any specifics other than Hold Person and Grease. As for being a effective wizard, the common types, battlefield control, buffing, debuffing, all rely on the wizard being part of a team or being able to summon a team. Not fighting solo.

The point of the ever-smoking bottle is create terrain to provide cover, to buy the time that I need as Boog to either retreat or better terrain to fight the wizard. The ever-smoking bottle has a 100 foot radius.

Reviewing many of the spells used for battlefield control, buffing or debuffing. Many require you to see the target, have a way smaller area than a 100 foot radius cloud of smoke, or a close range that shorter than 100 feet.

Again to stress this doesn't make Boog superior or better, it just means that playing Boog I have options even against an attacker who is flying and invisible.
And against a team? Face it, Boog has no chance against a Druid or Cleric set up for melee combat. He has basic options against a wizard, but only if that wizard chooses to engage.

There's a reason full casters are considered top tier classes in 3.X. And solid reasons why Fighters are low tier. Face it, even the options you are taking in order to give your melee character a fighting chance come from a caster.

Now, I'm not saying 3.5 is unplayable. I'd like to take it out for a spin myself in the not too distant future. But acting as if fighters beyond single figure levels are equal to full casters us just naive. Or trolling.
 

Sommerjon

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If said "novice" is roleplaying their character, then all such questions are elementary.

1. The player has control over their own character's decisions.

This is true of pretty much every game. Situations where it is not would be a GM railroad or a system that compels characters to act in a certain way regardless of the player's wishes.
You need #2 & #3 to be truthful in order to have #1 be accurate.

2. Those decisions have consequences within the game world.

This is the mark of a good system and GM. A competent GM blends logic, common sense, and experience to determine the realistic consequences of a character's actions.
The Boog example should be a dead give away that this doesn't really work all that well. Robert is using logic, common sense, and experience from another system thinking it works just as well on the new paradigm. It doesn't.

3. The player has enough information to anticipate what those consequences might be before making them.

Which doesn't mean perfect knowledge, obviously. A character from their PoV as a resident of the shared imaginary reality should have the same knowledge of an equivalent person in the real world facing a similar situation.
Sorta, except in this imaginary shared space Humans also are able to gain strength without ever looking like they have gained strength. They are not increasing in size, their teeth are not getting longer and sharper, etc. . Meaning is this Bandit in Scale Armor, pointing a spear at me demanding my horse a 1+1HD bandit or is it Really the nefarious Bandit King Snave who is not a lowly 1+1HD bandit.
This is one of those things where it feels like you're just coming from a completely different paradigm: By and large, I (as the GM) don't do that. It's not my responsibility to hold your hand.
Why are you assuming that alls I wanna do is kill it?

Why isn't this thing that totally outclasses us not just putting the bullet in our brain pan and continuing on its way?

Figuring out how to gain information in order to make informed decisions is part of the game.
Quote page numbers from 10 different game systems where this is true.

You can disparage this as "playing 20 questions" in the apparent belief that PCs actually interacting with the game world and making meaningful choices is somehow a bad thing.
I'm not interacting with the game world. I'm having to ask you questions because you didn't feel the need to completely explain the situation. You have ignored logic, common sense, and experience to maintain some hierarchy that you learnt as a kid.
There is no shared imaginary reality. My character stands in a room thick with the Fog of War around me only lifting when I ask the proper questions.

On the other hand, I'm of the belief that the sort of "GM as nanny" model that you're advocating is the root of basically everything wrong with RPG design over the last 20 years.
I learnt 30 years ago the pixel bitching is needlessly boring and have yet to understand why some people cling to it.
 

tenbones

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I'm not ignoring you guys. I'm processing the opinions presented here - it's been exactly what I'm looking for in terms of a gut-check.
 

Justin Alexander

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Why are you assuming that alls I wanna do is kill it?
I never said that. Like many other people in this thread, I find it difficult to believe that you're actually reading our posts before replying to them.

Why isn't this thing that totally outclasses us not just putting the bullet in our brain pan and continuing on its way?
Your inability to comprehend how you could possibly learn information about, for example, where a dragon lives before the DM railroads you into a combat encounter with it is simply another example of how your paradigm of play is completely divorced from the paradigm of play at my table.

Figuring out how to gain information in order to make informed decisions is part of the game.
Quote page numbers from 10 different game systems where this is true.


AD&D, 1st Edition PHB, p. 7: "Considerable enjoyment and excitement in early play stems from not knowing exactly what is going on. Being uncertain of how a given situation will turn out, not knowing every magic item available, and so forth, adds spice to the game. Later, this knowledge simulates actual experience, for the seasoned campaigner will have learned through game play. (...) Leave discovery of the information therein to actual adventuring, and you will find that the game is even more fun! Some of the details of the campaign milieu -- worldly knowledge common to a typical adventurer -- will be given you by your Dungeon Master. Exploration, travel, and adventure of the 'world' will eventually reveal the secrets heretofore hidden, and the joy of actually earning them will be well worth the wait."

D&D, 4th Edition DMG, p. 80: "DISCOVERING SECRET LORE. In this skill challenge, PCs try to learn more about a clue they've discovered during their adventures. (...) Success: The PCs solve the riddle or otherwise gain the information they need. Failure: The PCs uncover flawed or incomplete information. As they proceed forward, they operate at a disadvantage."

D&D, 5th Edition DMG, p. 72: "The middle of an adventure is where the bulk of the story unfolds. With each new challenge, the adventurers make important choices that have a clear effect on the conclusion of the adventure. Over the course of the adventure, the characters might discover secrets that reveal new goals or change their original goal. Their understanding of what's going on around them might change."

Trail of Cthulhu, p. 191: "Whenever you get stuck, get out and gather more information. Ask yourself what you need to know in order to formulate a plan. Then figure out how to get that information, and go out and get it."

Technoir, p. 10: "But the game doesn't do it on its own. It's important that you and your players understand these principals and play to them rather than against them. Work the Contacts: Clues can only tell her so much. People -- with the right amount of pressure -- can tell her everything she needs to know. She can't trust any one person, of course. But get enough stories, and she can start to see the big picture. The protagonists in this game each have a list of connections they know. They can go to them at any time to get some piece of information. This should be one of their first steps in any new venture."

Call of Cthulhu, 7th Edition Investigator's Handbook, p. 210: "As a player of Call of Cthulhu, you take the part of an investigator, a role so-called because much of the game consists of searching for and evaluating clues and evidence."

Amber, p. 121: "Players enjoy it best when they must uncover each of Amber's many secrets step-by-step, so each Game Master's Amber should provide the opportunity to discover the unknown. Putting the answers down in black and white, even if it were possible, would take a lot of fun out of the role-playing."

Numenera (1st Edition), p. 108: "The core of gameplay in Numenera - the answer to the question "What do characters do in this game?" - is "Discover new things or old things that are new again." (...) The common thread is that the PCs discover something that they can understand and put to use."

Blades in the Dark, p. 36: "When you want to know something specific about the fictional world, you character can gather information. The GM will ask you how your character gathers the info (or how they learned it in the past)."

Stars Without Numbers, p. 79: "Players also need to understand that the universe is not organized around their capabilities. The world is full of situations and opponents that will get the group killed if they are careless or foolhardy. The GM will respect attempts at scouting and investigation and will clue properly careful adventurers about potential death-trap situations, but he won't save the group if they insist on plunging ahead into certain doom. Players need to know the limitations of their characters and choose challenges they've got a fighting chance of surviving."
 

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Chris Brady

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The issue with D&D 3.x is how for D&D all the problems with the core system gets magnified to sadly, ridiculous degrees. The caster vs. melee issue was always there, but it was never as extreme as when 3.x showed. And it could be mitigated or ignored relatively easily.

And to me, this extreme is why balance of some sort is necessary. And I'm not talking purely mathematically. Nor am I talking about 'sameness', which is not the same thing (No pun intended.) It's a combination of mathematical values, 'spotlight time' i.e. the player/character getting a chance to do something, which leads into the third factor of 'feeling' useful to the rest of the group. As roleplaying is a group activity.
 

TristramEvans

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You need #2 & #3 to be truthful in order to have #1 be accurate.
Okay

The Boog example should be a dead give away that this doesn't really work all that well. Robert is using logic, common sense, and experience from another system thinking it works just as well on the new paradigm. It doesn't.
"Logic, common sense, and experience" have nothing to do with systems or paradigms. It's based on the real world, not dictated by the game.

Sorta, except in this imaginary shared space Humans also are able to gain strength without ever looking like they have gained strength. They are not increasing in size, their teeth are not getting longer and sharper, etc. . Meaning is this Bandit in Scale Armor, pointing a spear at me demanding my horse a 1+1HD bandit or is it Really the nefarious Bandit King Snave who is not a lowly 1+1HD bandit.
Doesn't matter. Combat has the same consequences in either case.
 

dbm

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The desire to dissolve D&D into a PC-vs-PC arena game is very interesting to me. That isn’t what the game is about, nor is it how it’s intended to be played. But many people can’t help but use this mechanism to show ‘which PC is best’ - I know I fall into that trap from time to time.

D&D is intended to be played as a chain of encounters, with an attritional model running across multiple incidents each consuming some of the characters’ resources. Comparing the fighter to the mage seems to be apples to oranges. The fighter is designed as a slow-burn, keep functioning all day kind of character class. By contrast, the mage has resources that get burned very distinctly, and the ‘mastery’ in playing a mage is IMO about choosing when to employ your low-availability, high-impact capabilities (i.e. spells). To compare a mage with a full day of spells available against a fighter in a single encounter is close to irrelevance. The mage can afford to nova a full day’s worth of game-effect, whilst the fighter generally has no way (at least in the core-class abilities) of going nova at all.

Whilst I don’t buy-in to the idea that social mechanisms should balance mechanical capabilities I do think it is totally legitimate to have strategic factors balance tactical capabilities. The mage is a much more strategic class IMO - do I use my Wall of Fire spell in this encounter or the next? Is now the right time for a Cone of Cold or can the enemies be corralled so that we can hit more of them with my one shot? That doesn’t mean it is ‘better’ or ‘more hardcore’. Just different.

This is one of the reasons why I don’t buy in to the idea that NPCs and PCs should be built with the same mechanisms. PCs are designed to function across multiple encounters and keep things interesting in this medium to longer-term play sequence. An NPC is only going to be in one fight, most of the time. So, I would never pit a 100% fresh mage against a party of similar level - the mage can afford to nova as his outcome will be binary - defeat the players or be defeated instead. The party has to overcome their enemy and go on to face other challenges (or, alternatively, the PCs are likely to start an encounter partially spent).

So, if I was writing an RPG the PCs and NPCs would definitely be built with different capabilities and numbers of spells / charges / hit points to account for continuing play versus one-scene considerations.
 

TristramEvans

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You know, back when Ladybird was talking about how different editions of D&D are effectively different games, this thread was in serious danger of getting interesting.

I think there's effectively been 6 different games with the title "Dungeons & Dragons"

OD&D
Basic D&D (Holmes. Mentzer, Rules Cyclopedia)
AD&D (1st & 2nd Edition)
WOTC D&D (3e & 3.5)
4th edition
5th edition
 

robertsconley

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My method is to imagine the setting is if it exists and use, create, or adapt the mechanics to reflect that. PCs and NPCs are same in that regard. The only different is the former are roleplayed by the players, and the latter are roleplayed by me as the referee.

There are other methods of to view this and thus the mechanics of implementing this would be different.

As for the example of the fresh mage taking on a party, my techniques is to look at the circumstances and equip the mage accordingly. Unless the mage know there is a battle with the PCs is imminent, then he would be equipped for the normal events of his circumstance.

This is why this particular encounter went down the way it did. The sheriff in question had his magic swords but otherwise was dressed and equipped like he always does when dealing with administrative issues. His battle gear was in his room within the castle. Thus despite the level disparity the party was able to take the sheriff down.

If you are interested in how it plays out @Douglas Cole kept his journal going throughout that campaign.

It is not the only way to handle this, but it happens to be the way I handle it and done so with success for a long time now.

As for systems and doing this, I found that it as long as the RPG is focused on a reality close to our own in terms of the mundane things the characters can do (combat, skills, abilities, etc) then I rarely have trouble adapting it RAW.

If I am planning to run a campaign then I will comb through the supernatural aspect of the setting and see if it matches up with the setting want to use. I may adjust the setting itself if the point of the campaign is to play that system. I did this recently with 5th edition and Blackmarsh.
 

Voros

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I think there's effectively been 6 different games with the title "Dungeons & Dragons"

OD&D
Basic D&D (Holmes. Mentzer, Rules Cyclopedia)
AD&D (1st & 2nd Edition)
WOTC D&D (3e & 3.5)
4th edition
5th edition
Whereas I see all those except 4e being essentially the same game: HP, AC, etc. If they were really that different it wouldn't be as easy as it is to convert adventures from one to the other with relative ease.
 

robertsconley

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I wrote a well received answer on the differences between the various editions of D&D on Stackexchange back in 2012.

OD&D - The original game had only three classes (Cleric, Fighter, Magic User). Cleric spells up to 5th level, Magic user spells up to 6th level. Every attack except for certain monster abilities did 1d6 damage if it hit. There wasn't a lot of difference between characters in terms of combat capabilities. Characteristics didn't have many modifiers.

OD&D plus Greyhawk Supplement - The Greyhawk supplement transformed OD&D into a form of older edition D&D that is recognizable by most gamers today. Characteristics have more modifiers and exceptional strength was introduced. Variable damage dice for different weapons and creatures was introduced. The number of spell levels increased.

Holmes Edition, B/X D&D, Mentzer D&D - Similar to OD&D plus Greyhawk including selected elements from other supplements, with the rules rewritten for clarity and organization. Playing a Race meant playing a class. For example a Dwarf used only the Dwarf Class. Both B/X and Mentzer were divided in distinct books that focused on a specific range of levels. Later the Mentzer version was combined into the Rules Compendium. The biggest difference between these rules and AD&D was found in higher level play. Mentzer D&D had specific rules for running domain, mass combat, and even becoming a immortal i.e. god.

AD&D 1st Edition - OD&D plus Supplements plus Strategic Review articles are combined, rewritten, and organized into a three book set. One of the reason behind this edition was to standardize how D&D was played to make running tournaments easier. The most popular version of older edition D&D. Bonuses for characteristics roughly go up to +4 and are capped at 18 except for exceptional strength.

A lot of extra details are added in Gygax's distinctive writing style. Some sections are poorly designed or understood like the unarmed combat rules, initiative, psionics, human dual classing, etc. While other are widely adopted, classes, races, spells, magic items, etc. Characters select a race and a class. Non-human race can multi class which involves splitting experience between multiple classes. Non-humans were generally limited to a max level (often low).

AD&D 1st Edition plus Unearthed Arcana - This version shifted the power level of the game upwards by allowing increased level limits for non-human, new classes that were slightly more powerful, and weapon specialization for fighters. Later AD&D hardback books (the two Survival books) expanded the use of non-weapon proficiencies as a skill system.

AD&D 2nd Edition - Still basically AD&D 1st Edition but the rules have been reorganized and rewritten for clarity. Some content like half-orc, demons, and assassins were removed or changed due to media pressure. Character customization was expanded by using non-weapon proficiencies as a skill system and by allowing characters to take kits that confer various benefits. Combat has been redesigned to overcome the issues with initiative and unarmed combat that were part of the previous edition of AD&D.

Because of the success of Dragonlance, much of AD&D 2nd Edition run was focused on customizing the rules for specific settings or themes. TSR released a lot of different settings like Dark Sun, Birthright, and others.

AD&D 2nd Edition Skills and Powers - Player's Option: Skill and Powers introduced several rule systems that allowed extensive customization of a character.

D&D 3rd Edition - The first edition created by Wizards of the Coast, 3rd Edition took the idea of Skill and Powers and developed a cleaner system for customizing characters by designing the classes so a level of one class can stack on top of another class. A single level chart was introduced and a each level a character could take a new class or add another level of a class they already had.

In addition feats were added to allow character to further customize their abilities. A true skill system was introduced and integrated into the game. The underlying d20 system worked by rolling equal too or higher than a target number and adding various bonus. This was used across the game in a standard way. Problems developed at higher levels as the number of options increased to the point where players had a tough time resolving their actions.

In addition, when various supplements were combined, characters could be built that were considerably more powerful than other combinations. This version was also noted for releasing the d20 system under the Open Game License, which ignited a vigorous third party market.

D&D 3.5 Edition - This edition featured only small changes to the core game (and was mostly-but-not-entirely compatible with books written for 3rd Edition), but had its own extensive line of supplements which magnified the role of feats, prestige classes, and multiclassing in character customization.

This version of D&D is still the baseline for many D20 games some still in print and active development. Notably the Pathfinder 1st edition game by Paizo is based on the System Reference Document for D&D 3.5.

D&D 4th Edition - This edition is a completely new game with only a few game mechanics carried over from the 3rd Edition. It has a simple set of core rules and defines all character and monster abilities as exceptions which are described in standard terms. Higher level combat has been simplified, and class has been designed to have specific roles in combat. Every classes has a diverse set of combat options to use. The use of a battlegrid and miniatures is part of the core rules. Classes and monster generally have a high fantasy flavor. There are multiple ways to heal centered on a new mechanic called healing surges. Combat takes noticeably longer than any prior edition except perhaps for high level 3rd edition combat. While not present at the game's launch, this edition is noted for popular use of on-line computer tools, particularly an online character builder that integrates content from all the supplements. Wizards of the Coast originally intended to create a "virtual tabletop" as well, but the project was never completed.

D&D Essentials - This was an alternative set of core books for 4th Edition, with simplified classes intended for first-time players. Essentials was designed to be cross-compatible with 4th Edition, with different versions of the classes usable side-by-side.

D&D 5th edition - This is the current edition of D&D. This edition is being released when the market leader is not the previous edition of D&D but rather a rival product made by Paizo called Pathfinder. Unlike D&D 4th edition this edition draws on much of the mechanics introduced in classic D&D (OD&D to AD&D 2nd Edition) and D&D 3rd Edition. It allows for more character customization than classic D&D but less than 3rd edition. The distinct features of D&D 5th edition are flexibility and bounded accuracy.

D&D 5e has a simple core along with several options that allows referee to make their game feel more like a particular past edition. Options include allowing feats (3e), tactical combat (3e & 4e), multi-classing (3e), and backgrounds (2e).

Bounded Accuracy is the most distinct feature of D&D 5e. As stated in this article the d20 rolls to see if the character hits or succeeds in a task have been changed to an absolute scale where the difference between the highest level and the lowest is drastically reduced compared to previous editions. In its place, higher levels characters and creature have more hit points, more options for completing tasks, and increased damage along with more ways of doing damage. An immediate consequence is that the difficulty of the to hit roll or the task is not expected to increase as the character levels.
 

KrakaJak

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Looking just at the OP.
So why should there be *any* regards to stat-balance? In my experience moving from D&D to Palladium Fantasy, then Atlantis (Bard era) then Talislanta completely dissolved this idea that "balance" by stats had value on its face.
Looking at your progression there tenbones, I can why you would land on this position. I don't agree, but I see how you got there.

It only matters if you're not really trying to create a fleshed out setting - and you're playing episodic adventures largely free of any context outside of whatever the party is currently doing.
In my experience, players didn't show up to watch the GMs world simulation go round. The player's adventures is the context of the game. All that world simulation and repercussions are the fun minigame/exercise I play in my head as a GM in order to generate more episodic adventures for the PCs.

None of what you mention in the above quote is mutually exclusive, and is pretty dismissive of a bunch of valid approaches GMs have for running interesting games.

And even then that flies in the face of most setting assumptions unless you only play modules and dungeon crawls. In Sandbox play, social-dynamics already offer all the balancing required. If you wanna play the setting *as assumed* - then it falls on the GM (and the hopefully well constructed world) to enforce that "reality" whatever it might be.
To me, this reads as "It is up to the GM to balance games that are unbalanced." Even putting some of the impetus on the "Setting," it's the GMs job to run the setting. It's this idea that that reveals the value of mechanically balanced PCs.

If the game as designed has relatively balanced PCs, that's something I don't have to worry about as a GM when putting scenarios together. If I don't have to remember to find a way to treat the Caitiff like shit every game, if I don't need to stock every town with informative children for the Vagabond to bribe with his pocket candy (That's a RIFTS reference!), that opens me up to do other things.

And if I have a bunch of options for critters, bad guys and situations balanced against a party of relatively balanced PCs. That's another thing sorted, making my job as a GM easier.

Palladium Fantasy, and Talislanta (I can't speak for Atlantis) require GMs to balance the games themselves. Those games are a lot of fun with the right GM. I don't consider that a feature. Some GMs, hell, a lot of GMs, don't want to do that.
 

Silverlion

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I've run some pretty awesome Talislanta games. Plus I generally run superhero games--and while mine is a bit odd in terms of how balance works out it works out.


However, my not by me, favorites: MSH, and Marvel Saga--neither one demand balance of characters, relying a lot on GM's to sort that out. But logically speaking--a villain who is super strong and is facing the Avengers is going to aim for heavy hitters--not the Wasp (even if she is VERY effective at what she does.) I mean squashing the Wasp isn't as infamy building as beating back Thor; is it?
 
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Mankcam

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I think that's a benefit of the lightning-fast character generation and flimsiness of low-level characters in early D&D. People often complain about it, but it provides new players the chance to screw up and die, then come back into the game five minutes later with a new character.

In my B/X games, the players are willing to be more experimental and reckless early on, which give them lots of learning opportunities for when one of their characters does level up.

Later editions of D&D have a much higher fun-tax attached to character death as making a character actually takes a fair amount of reading and work. If your character dies in the first minutes of a session, you will probably spend most of the session working on your new character before coming back into the game.

This fun tax is a big part of why 3E was better suited to balanced adventure paths which minimize the chance of death, and earlier editions work better with sandboxes, where you can stumble onto your doom unexpectedly.

One of the things I like in Delta Green is the way it has really streamlined character generation. Call of Cthulhu isn't the crunchiest system in the world, but spending all those skill points can be time-consuming, and a little daunting for people new to RPGs. While you can still spend place your points yourself in Delta Green, you can also just pick a template for your career and one for your background and be done with it. Character generation was the one thing in Call of Cthulhu that made it slightly less than perfect as a game for introducing people to the hobby.
This is also why 'Magic World' and 'OpenQuest' are great versions of BRP (despite both not really breaking thru to a wider market).

The quick character generation process enables players to jump in rather quickly, and thus take more risks with their characters, as it isn't a labourious process if they ever need to roll new ones up at some stage.

I cannot see that same situstion happening with the current Call of Cthulu rules, and definately not with the current RuneQuest rules. RuneQuest in particular has a very immersive character generation process which certainly takes some time to do. I cannot see anyone seeing that as a great experience if their chatacter dies in the first session, and they have to do all that all over again with a new character.

So I really get the appeal of D&D B/X, DCC etc, when it comes to quickly launching characters back into the game.
 

CRKrueger

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The desire to dissolve D&D into a PC-vs-PC arena game is very interesting to me. That isn’t what the game is about, nor is it how it’s intended to be played. But many people can’t help but use this mechanism to show ‘which PC is best’ - I know I fall into that trap from time to time.

D&D is intended to be played as a chain of encounters, with an attritional model running across multiple incidents each consuming some of the characters’ resources. Comparing the fighter to the mage seems to be apples to oranges. The fighter is designed as a slow-burn, keep functioning all day kind of character class. By contrast, the mage has resources that get burned very distinctly, and the ‘mastery’ in playing a mage is IMO about choosing when to employ your low-availability, high-impact capabilities (i.e. spells). To compare a mage with a full day of spells available against a fighter in a single encounter is close to irrelevance. The mage can afford to nova a full day’s worth of game-effect, whilst the fighter generally has no way (at least in the core-class abilities) of going nova at all.

Whilst I don’t buy-in to the idea that social mechanisms should balance mechanical capabilities I do think it is totally legitimate to have strategic factors balance tactical capabilities. The mage is a much more strategic class IMO - do I use my Wall of Fire spell in this encounter or the next? Is now the right time for a Cone of Cold or can the enemies be corralled so that we can hit more of them with my one shot? That doesn’t mean it is ‘better’ or ‘more hardcore’. Just different.

This is one of the reasons why I don’t buy in to the idea that NPCs and PCs should be built with the same mechanisms. PCs are designed to function across multiple encounters and keep things interesting in this medium to longer-term play sequence. An NPC is only going to be in one fight, most of the time. So, I would never pit a 100% fresh mage against a party of similar level - the mage can afford to nova as his outcome will be binary - defeat the players or be defeated instead. The party has to overcome their enemy and go on to face other challenges (or, alternatively, the PCs are likely to start an encounter partially spent).

So, if I was writing an RPG the PCs and NPCs would definitely be built with different capabilities and numbers of spells / charges / hit points to account for continuing play versus one-scene considerations.
Good analysis, but I draw a different conclusion. What you just described is why attacking a caster in their lair is one of the more dangerous things you can do. Which is why tactics and some combat limitations on spells like casting times and spell interruptions are key.

Instead of rules balance, ie. make NPCs way different, I prefer setting balance. Systemic ways that magic works (like all the AD&D restrictions that got removed in 3.x) coupled with the idea that the caster might not know the PCs are coming and has a standard daily load out of spells, not his “Fight to the Death” loadout.

But yeah, a high level wizard can Nova. Maybe it leaves him having to literally spend days rememorizing spells, but he can do it. Which is why, generally speaking, people leave wizards the fuck alone in their sanctums, even if they are dire enemies.
 

Raleel

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Instead of rules balance, ie. make NPCs way different, I prefer setting balance. Systemic ways that magic works (like all the AD&D restrictions that got removed in 3.x) coupled with the idea that the caster might not know the PCs are coming and has a standard daily load out of spells, not his “Fight to the Death” loadout.
i like this. I've not been following much in the last 7 pages, but I like this a bunch. It is also more of a burden on the GM, but I think quite rewarding for a roleplaying game.
 

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This is also why 'Magic World' and 'OpenQuest' are great versions of BRP (despite both not really breaking thru to a wider market).

The quick character generation process enables players to jump in rather quickly, and thus take more risks with their characters, as it isn't a labourious process if they ever need to roll new ones up at some stage.

I cannot see that same situstion happening with the current Call of Cthulu rules, and definately not with the current RuneQuest rules. RuneQuest in particular has a very immersive character generation process which certainly takes some time to do. I cannot see anyone seeing that as a great experience if their character dies in the first session, and they have to do all that all over again with a new character.

So I really get the appeal of D&D B/X, DCC etc, when it comes to quickly launching characters back into the game.
Flashback to the “Your character died...” thread. There’s lots of ways to handle it, but there’s just no getting around the fact that the more heft the system has and the more immersive and setting-detailed the character creation process is, the more likely players are going to be playing a pregen, NPCs, making up a new character, whatever, essentially not playing a character made up through the chargen system.

Some people will see that as an onerous task, as punishment for character death, etc.

Bottom line - if the players don’t like it/can’t deal with it, time to do something else or get different players.
 

Moracai

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Very well thought out piece of text robertsconsley.

There is only one point I'd like to nitpick here (emphasis mine)

AD&D 2nd Edition - Still basically AD&D 1st Edition but the rules have been reorganized and rewritten for clarity. Some content like half-orc, demons, and assassins were removed or changed due to media pressure. Character customization was expanded by using non-weapon proficiencies as a skill system and by allowing characters to take kits that confer various benefits. Combat has been redesigned to overcome the issues with initiative and unarmed combat that were part of the previous edition of AD&D
Proficiencies as a whole were optional rules. Not that anyone I know of opted out of them. In hindsight I think that including them in the game was a really bad move. It switched the focus from "anyone can build a fire" to "only those with X proficiency can build a fire". My guess is that most people included proficiencies into their games because of the significant bonuses to combat performance. This would have been a perfectly good game to my tastes even in modern days if there would have not been proficiencies, and if there would have not been any additional rules bloat, such as those kit books and so on.
 

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I never said that. Like many other people in this thread, I find it difficult to believe that you're actually reading our posts before replying to them.
Go back to post #181 and start over.
Here I'll snip it for you
1565791652737.png

posts #187, #188
1565791777928.png

Your inability to comprehend how you could possibly learn information about, for example, where a dragon lives before the DM railroads you into a combat encounter with it is simply another example of how your paradigm of play is completely divorced from the paradigm of play at my table.
There has been exactly one person who said how they do it. Post#205
1565792035688.png

This has nothing to do with finding information out in the respective game world and OMG everything to do with
1565792226788.png

It appears most rely upon system mastery of the players to know what's what. Which seems odd when it's nearly the same people who poopoo system mastery for character builds.
 

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Lol, no, not it's not based on any real world anything. It's based solely upon Robert's knowledge of how another game system works.
Do you really think people's dislike of 4e was because of the marketing? No it was the shift in how the game was played. How many times did you see "It's not D&D", Clearly it is D&D says so right there on the cover. But we know what they were meaning is "this set of ideas is not my D&D" That is where personal bias comes in.

Okay going back to

I personally define agency by three criteria:
1. The player has control over their own character's decisions.
2. Those decisions have consequences within the game world.
3. The player has enough information to anticipate what those consequences might be before making them.

Why is it okay to not give players enough information?
 

robertsconley

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Lol, no, not it's not based on any real world anything. It's based solely upon Robert's knowledge of how another game system works.
And said game system is based in part on how the real world works which is why human base speed is 30 feet in a 6 second combat round not 10 feet not 60 feet to pick out one mechanic. In other RPGs with different assumptions or levels of abstraction this may not hold true. But in various editions of D&D it does.
 

robertsconley

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Very well thought out piece of text robertsconley.
Thanks :smile:


Proficiencies as a whole were optional rules. Not that anyone I know of opted out of them. In hindsight I think that including them in the game was a really bad move. It switched the focus from "anyone can build a fire" to "only those with X proficiency can build a fire". My guess is that most people included proficiencies into their games because of the significant bonuses to combat performance. This would have been a perfectly good game to my tastes even in modern days if there would have not been proficiencies, and if there would have not been any additional rules bloat, such as those kit books and so on.
Sound about right.

My own take and what D&D 5th edition adopted for itself. Is that I wanted character to better at certain things outside of combat and spellcasting. Particularly for a series of classes I called Rogues like Burglars, Thugs, Merchant Adventurers, and Assassins. So I created a skill system to handle this.

However I was building this on top of Swords & Wizardry, Core edition which is a retro clone of the original edition plus a few rules from the supplements. And like you noted, in the original edition, "any character can build a fire". So I wanted to keep that.

So instead of calling them skills, I call them abilities. I designed so any character could attempt any ability just some are better at certain abilities than other. I defined a reasonable chance of success 15+ on a d20 or 30%. And a attribute modifiers system that goes up to +3.

If interested you can read how it works with my Basic Majestic Fantasy Rules. It is a free download.
 

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an adventurer encountering an unknown monster knows that if they engage in combat it is likely the monster is physically stronger and tougher than them. A visual appraisal will probably tell them the creature's obvious offensive and defensive adaptions (if it has scales, it's likely to be very resistant to physical injury, if it has large teeth, all the better to eat you with.
I think D&D (and maybe even fantasy gaming in general) struggles a bit, here. By the simple logic of the real world a man with a sword would never be able to take on a dragon and win, but that is certainly an expectation in D&D once the fighter reaches a high-enough level. The tricky bit is working out where you are on the threat spectrum.

This is one of the reasons I like characters to have skills they can call on to appraise monsters with. The cleric should know something about undead, the wizard about outsiders and so on. Whether it is a skill they can choose to buy or a ‘roll vs your level’ type mechanics is not relevant to the question at this point, but characters should be able to assess monsters independent of their player’s knowledge. A good roll will tell you something of the specific attacks / defences a monster is likely to have, a bare success will tell you if you fancy your chances or not. A base fail gives no information and a ‘crit fail ‘ leads to here...

To that end, I am becoming more inclined to make up new monsters rather than rely on the well-known monsters from a book. Having a wide range of threats makes it difficult for players to circumvent their own prior OOC knowledge, and to me that is a good thing. I have started to adopt the noble principle of ‘start with a mini and make up some stats’ that the founding fathers also took.
Proficiencies as a whole were optional rules. Not that anyone I know of opted out of them. In hindsight I think that including them in the game was a really bad move. It switched the focus from "anyone can build a fire" to "only those with X proficiency can build a fire".
In our group the gag is that when NWPs were invented everyone suddenly fell of their horse...
 

tenbones

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In my experience, players didn't show up to watch the GMs world simulation go round. The player's adventures is the context of the game. All that world simulation and repercussions are the fun minigame/exercise I play in my head as a GM in order to generate more episodic adventures for the PCs.
I don't draw a distinction between player experiences of the game and the GM's part in it. They are entirely different functions that serve one larger experience: the game itself.

While I agree with your premise - you're leaving out something I consider one of the most important points: the quality of the experience. It's not enough for me to read flavor text to the players, and go dot-to-dot in pre-scripted encounters. That's pretty basic stuff. New players simply don't know better. Same with GM's. It doesn't change the fact that there are objectively *better* ways to conduct the adventure. That's the rub.

"Simulationism" and "Rules-lawyering" are crutches that players and GM's depend on for a specific goal - to have a "better game" but it will always come down to the quality of the GM to use those poles in conjunction for the higher purpose which is to do that which best serves the game. Otherwise why have a GM at all? Why not create a system that simply takes the Dungeon Generator out of the 1e DMG and use random-encounter rolls to determine *everything*? You could even stat-bloc monsters to determine their behaviors in combat on a round-by-round basis.

GM's are the MC's of the game. Their task is to learn how to take their games to "the next level" metaphorically and occasionally literally.

None of what you mention in the above quote is mutually exclusive, and is pretty dismissive of a bunch of valid approaches GMs have for running interesting games.
But this is contextual. Some games are simplistic. Some are complex. Styles of GMing are not singular. They're tools in a toolbox. I run a sandbox that can contain pretty much any other "technique" that other GM-styles can fit in. Some tools I don't use if ever. Others I use a lot. I'm not being dismissive - I'm pointing out that you can take your modules and canned adventures and *put* them into a larger context that expands the players conception of the game.

If you only want to run adventures as self-contained episodic events - that's fine. But it's like saying "Summer Stock theater production is just as good as Broadway Theater productions". They're the same "thing"... but not the same requirements or equal in quality generally. Because one takes more to pull off than the other. To the degree that a GM - not the players, are willing to "go there" is on the GM and their ability to lead their players there organically and make it awesome.

To me, this reads as "It is up to the GM to balance games that are unbalanced." Even putting some of the impetus on the "Setting," it's the GMs job to run the setting. It's this idea that that reveals the value of mechanically balanced PCs.
That's correct. There is *no* mechanical balance in classes and races without context. Unless you're using some universal system, these things exist in context with some assumed or implied setting tied, usually to a genre. The GM is there to enforce the conceits of the setting's status quo - AND/OR facilitate the destruction of the status-quo via the actions of the PC's intentionally or not.

That means it's irrelevant that Orcs are stronger, faster, more aggressive, breed out of control - Humans rule the world, because <X>. And <X> is everything required to make that true. That's the GM's job. It doesn't matter that Half-Orcs have +2 Strength and Con, and Human's don't. Whatever it requires for Humans to be top-dog in a given location - that is the conceit. Likely it means Half-Orcs are going to pay for it in numerous other ways. Or not. Depends. That's up to the GM - not the players.

Which brings me to the design portion - that means it's important for the game to be designed to impart that both narratively and mechanically to the GM to enforce that so the players can experience it in play.

Let me reverse those assumption you're implying about balance - which I find common today. Players complain race <X> is overpowered. Let's use the Half-Orc again (and I'm not being system/setting specific here). So those players seeing that physically half-orcs are so much "better" than humans numerically by the stats, they decide to make a party of half-orcs. The GM then starts hitting them with the social costs of the setting (being Humans vs. Orcs)- they're denied the ability to safely travel in human ruled lands, denied many facets of the human-experience because the status-quo is exactly that. Those stat bonuses are offset by that reality.

Now sure - the PC's can fight to change that. That's part of the game (or not - if you don't care). This idea of mechanical balance as some non-contextual reality is silly to me. Because it assumes a priori that mechanical balance = game balance without context. If you reverse that - and everyone loves half-orcs, then everyone will play half-orcs. So what? What does it mean in terms of the campaign world? If it means that individual players are miffed that their non-contextual race in their non-contextual world has fewer stat-bonuses... I merely say: who cares? It's non-contextual.

And this is why people that play supers RPG's, myself included, came to realize this pretty early on. This is true of classes, races, and any other mechanical confection used in play.

If the game as designed has relatively balanced PCs, that's something I don't have to worry about as a GM when putting scenarios together. If I don't have to remember to find a way to treat the Caitiff like shit every game, if I don't need to stock every town with informative children for the Vagabond to bribe with his pocket candy (That's a RIFTS reference!), that opens me up to do other things.
Task Resolution Mechanics need to be mechanically balanced. Stat values have to be balanced - i.e. whatever scale those stats are made to represent and interact with the Task Resolution mechanics need to be static. This has very little to do with simulationism, this is about establishing the fundamental baseline of how things work. If you world is Light Gravity - then people might jump 30ft high naturally. Your stat-scaling should either reflect that, or it needs to be a setting conceit.

The notion that adding details the GM requires *on any level* is some kind of issue, is bizarre to me. If you run a canned adventure - you only need to read a text-box and roll dice for scripted traps and encounters. That's not hard. By saying to add more detail to a campaign than those things ticked off in a text-box, implies a GM "needs" these crutches so they can "do other things"... is indicative of my larger point: these expansions of game conceits exist *because* GM's wanted it. This IS what GM's do. No one is forced to do it. You do it because you want to raise the experience of your game for your players and hopefully for yourself. If not... no WORRIES. Play the module and game on.

I'm curious to "what those other things" are you speak of that sandbox GM's like myself and others don't do? This sounds to me like you want to make GMing easy (which I have no problem with - I have tons of shortcuts) without making a claim for the quality - but that's not what *I* am talking about. I'm wanting excellence above all else. I'm wanting a system that helps GM's raise their game. A slight change of perspective from "playing the system" to making the system support the conceits of the setting implicitly, with strong handholds for new GM's and veteran GM's alike to change those conceits. Players need only play.

And if I have a bunch of options for critters, bad guys and situations balanced against a party of relatively balanced PCs. That's another thing sorted, making my job as a GM easier.
None of which inherently is anything I'm making a claim *against*. I use pre-gen stat blocs for NPC's all the time. What's the point? That's 101. How in the world does that make good GMing "other things to do"? You're more hung up on mechanics=GMing than what GMing really is. (this might be a really good thread in its own right. I'm sure a LOT of people will have thoughts to share).

Palladium Fantasy, and Talislanta (I can't speak for Atlantis) require GMs to balance the games themselves. Those games are a lot of fun with the right GM. I don't consider that a feature. Some GMs, hell, a lot of GMs, don't want to do that.
First: Atlantis is pretty much Talislanta with minor differences - most having to do with setting. You really should check it out. It's amazing.

Second - heh, what RPGS do not require GM's to balance the game? I get what you mean - but I think your position on this is *far* more narrow than mine. There is no question that some games have much higher requirements for GMing than others. Some are more mechanical, others more narrative. I still know of no TTRPG that doesn't require a GM to *balance* the game at their table. Hell since the dawn of gaming going from one gaming group to another required knowing what House Rules were in effect for whatever reason the GM required. when did this magically change?
 

tenbones

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I think D&D (and maybe even fantasy gaming in general) struggles a bit, here. By the simple logic of the real world a man with a sword would never be able to take on a dragon and win, but that is certainly an expectation in D&D once the fighter reaches a high-enough level. The tricky bit is working out where you are on the threat spectrum.
I agree. That's due to a number of factors - the wargame roots of D&D, the assumptions of the mechanics over the setting. Then add to that the attempts of trying to pull the design away from these early system conceits, compounded with influences from other mediums, and attempts to reform various mechanics without regard to context only made things messy.

It's largely why so many other systems exist. And also why D&D will always be the sky under which these other systems must compete for our attention. Like it or not.

This is one of the reasons I like characters to have skills they can call on to appraise monsters with. The cleric should know something about undead, the wizard about outsiders and so on. Whether it is a skill they can choose to buy or a ‘roll vs your level’ type mechanics is not relevant to the question at this point, but characters should be able to assess monsters independent of their player’s knowledge. A good roll will tell you something of the specific attacks / defences a monster is likely to have, a bare success will tell you if you fancy your chances or not. A base fail gives no information and a ‘crit fail ‘ leads to here...


Sure! This is what establishing the core conceits of your setting are all about. The more detail the merrier.

Are dragons part of your world? Or are they just some possible monster stat-bloc for adventurers to kill when the GM feels like challenging you? See that's the part where people start fighting. Because the assumption is if the mechanics of the "system" are balanced - then there is some value to be placed on that monster to plug into an equation that should lead to "fun". This is where things go haywire and it's largely trying to make GMing nothing more than a procedural act.

To that end, I am becoming more inclined to make up new monsters rather than rely on the well-known monsters from a book. Having a wide range of threats makes it difficult for players to circumvent their own prior OOC knowledge, and to me that is a good thing. I have started to adopt the noble principle of ‘start with a mini and make up some stats’ that the founding fathers also took.

In our group the gag is that when NWPs were invented everyone suddenly fell of their horse...
I think a LOT of systems support this. The best one from d20 is Fantasy Craft. It literally is a set of sliding scales that gives you all the values and a set of basic abilities to choose from - and you narratively skin it and describe however you want and get fighting. Savage Worlds is excellent at this too.
 

TristramEvans

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Lol, no, not it's not based on any real world anything. It's based solely upon Robert's knowledge of how another game system works.
Do you really think people's dislike of 4e was because of the marketing? No it was the shift in how the game was played. How many times did you see "It's not D&D", Clearly it is D&D says so right there on the cover. But we know what they were meaning is "this set of ideas is not my D&D" That is where personal bias comes in.
This response has nothing to do do with what I said. To repeat:

"A competent GM blends logic, common sense, and experience to determine the realistic consequences of a character's actions. A good system supports and assists this. There are times when a GM's ruling should supersede the system in order to enforce realistic consequences. Like the age old example of a high level character with a large amount of hit points jumping off a cliff."

The "logic, common sense, and experience" in that statement is that of the GM. I have no idea what definition of those words you could possibly have invented that has anything to do with a game system, but it's very clear from that statement, where I go on to say that there are times that such things should supersede the specific rules of any game system when they contradict them, that I, personally, am not talking about something that comes from a system. I also at no point was specifically discussing Robert in any capacity, so again, this is something you'll have to explain, because it appears to have no relationship to the post you are responding to.

Okay going back to

I personally define agency by three criteria:
1. The player has control over their own character's decisions.
2. Those decisions have consequences within the game world.
3. The player has enough information to anticipate what those consequences might be before making them.

Why is it okay to not give players enough information?
Define "enough information". I gave my definition.
 

Justin Alexander

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I never said that. Like many other people in this thread, I find it difficult to believe that you're actually reading our posts before replying to them.
Go back to post #181 and start over.
Here I'll snip it for you
View attachment 11428
I can't quite decide what's more ridiculous: That you attempted to claim that I said something by quoting Tristram. Or that what Tristram said still isn't what you claimed I said.

It appears most rely upon system mastery of the players to know what's what. Which seems odd when it's nearly the same people who poopoo system mastery for character builds.
Or maybe it's this bit where you make yet another claim that I said something I never said. And which was, in fact, something directly contradicted in the post you were replying to.

1565861789375.png
 

tenbones

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Proficiencies as a whole were optional rules. Not that anyone I know of opted out of them. In hindsight I think that including them in the game was a really bad move. It switched the focus from "anyone can build a fire" to "only those with X proficiency can build a fire". My guess is that most people included proficiencies into their games because of the significant bonuses to combat performance. This would have been a perfectly good game to my tastes even in modern days if there would have not been proficiencies, and if there would have not been any additional rules bloat, such as those kit books and so on.
I know you're only saying it as a nitpick - but I think it's an important note because the prevalence of presuming "balance" by mechanics implies no balance without them (which is GM prerogative).

So I always fall to - if everyone is using <X> then <X> is the baseline. Anyone not using <X> is relegating that to GM fiat - which is fine as long as that fiat is applied consistently narratively AND mechanically.
 

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By the simple logic of the real world a man with a sword would never be able to take on a dragon and win, but that is certainly an expectation in D&D once the fighter reaches a high-enough level.
As for why it is an expectation.

In the Chainmail fantasy supplement a hero can kill a dragon by roll a 12 on 2d6. While a Superhero can kill a dragon by rolling a 10 on 2d6. Also a hero armed with a bow can kill a dragon within range on a 10 or better, +1 if they have an enchanted arrow.

This was done because in various legends Heroes slayed dragons. For the purpose of medieval wargaming Gygax and Perrin thought the above was a decent way of handling it for the purpose of a scenario. That a hero had only a 1 in 36 chance of killing a dragon, and a superhero had a 1 in 6 chance of killing a dragon.

As tabletop roleplaying and the D&D manuscript was developed, the idea that a hero can take on a dragon and win with difficulty persisted. Hence heroes being able to slay dragons (with difficulty) was part of the of the implicit setting of D&D as Gygax and Arneson imagined it.

Finally the Dragon in Chainmail

Dragons are feared everywhere, and with good reason. We will deal here with the great Red Dragon (Draco Conflagratio, or Draco Horribilis) which is typified in Tolkien's THE HOBBIT. Dragons can see equally well in darkness or in light. They cause enemy troops within 15" of them to check morale just as if they had suffered excess casualties" Dragons have the power to detect any hidden or invisible enemies they are within 15" of. They can fly 25" per turn, and remain aloft indefinitely. They melee as if they were four Heavy Horse, being impervious to missile or melee hits in normal combat (see Hero and Super Hero sections for the only exceptions). Their most dreaded weapon is their fiery breath, which is represented by a truncated cone, til in diameter at the mouth, and 3" in diameter at the far end. The range of the Dragon fire (overall length) is 9". A dragon can fly overhead and belch fire down on its enemies at the end of its move. Dragon fire will kill any opponent it touches, except another Dragon, Super Hero, or a Wizard, who is saved on a two dice roll of 7 or better. Certain Elementals are also impervious to Dragon Fire. After breathing fire three times, a Dragon must land and remain stationary for one turn in order to rekindle his internal fires. Because they are extremely evil and egotistical beasts, Dragons will automatically attack, in order of preference,. the following Fantastic creatures (regardless of which side they are on): Dragons, Giants, Balrogs, Roes, (true) Trolls, Elementals, Ents. Dragons never check morale.

Morale Rating -- (-). Point Value -- 100.

Other kinds of Dragons can be introduced into games, if a little imagination is used. White Dragons live in cold climates and breathe frost. Black Dragons are tropical and spit caustic acid. The Blue variety discharges a bolt of electricity. Green Dragons waft poisonous vapors--chlorine--at their opponents. Finally, the Purple, or Mottled, Dragon is a rare, flightless worm with a venomous sting in its tail. The Basilisk and Cockatrice are probably best included as Dragons.
 

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It's not the only way, though:smile:.
Yup. :smile:

For my part, I lay out the world as if existed and what the PC encounter is what they encounter.
In general high HD, high point, high level, etc NPC/Creatures are either living at the apex of the local ecology or a result of a years of experience. Which means they are not common, and there is a lot "noise" associated with their existence. I.e. there is an impact on their immediate environment.

As a consequence in my campaign, the most common form of imbalance in the later stage of the campaign is the PCs overmatching what they met in term of combat prowess.
 

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I just set up the world as if the PCs don't exist, then we drop the PCs in and see what they do. The world doesn't change to accommodate the PCs.
The trick of course is figure within the myriad possibilities of a world a place and/or time that would be of interest to the a particular group of players. In short if they are not interested in or dislike bowling they are not going to like pretending to visit a bowling alleys not matter how well-design the game being used is.
 
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