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tenbones

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I guess my problem with this sentiment is, "what's wrong with randomness":shade:?
Stormbringer chargen never seemed excessively random to me. Then again, I've only generated a couple of characters for some online games that didn't last long:thumbsup:.
As with all things it depends on the intent of the GM and what the players expectations are set to.

I submit that going into any RPG for me as a GM (less so as a player) is more about my attempts to give maximal freedom for players to do the things they want to do within the context of what I'm willing to run.

So there is always some give and take. But when I set parameters of This is the Setting, this is the System, this is the Starting area and situation, *everything* is up for negotiation. I have nothing against randomness, I'll use random table generators pretty frequently on things that don't matter on the surface. But for character generation, as a GM, it's a bit different.

As a player you have to be open enough and honest enough (or unable to articulate what you want) to settle for random characters generation. And it goes without saying - you either have to trust your GM, or understand your GM enough about the games they typically run to brave the rolls of chance that can, and will, produce very oddball characters from time to time.

I have no problem with a player telling me they want to randomize it. What I have a problem with is them not wanting to play the results and wasting our collective time trying to get their shit together, and eventually just doing it the way everyone else is doing it.

Which says something about me as a GM too. My players know fully well my NPC's aren't necessarily optimized for numbers, they're optimized for their places in the setting. The world they're going to playing in isn't created by random chance per se, but by the typical things that drive societies and cultures (or lack thereof) to do what they do. It's not quite complete social Darwinism, but those elements are in effect in various ways allowing for gross exceptions for political and cultural realities. So the problem with random generation for *my* games is less the fact that you're using random generation, than the fact that most random generation processes in games will not comport well for the kind of play my players expect.

THAT SAID - I can, and have had, many players that will do random chargen for the sheer challenge of it from which they derive a lot of fun. And I will back their play every time as long as they're committed to the results once we contextualize it to the game to our mutual agreement.

TL/DR - There is nothing wrong with Random Chargen as long as players are committed to the results.

Corollary: If you're willing to commit to random chargen as being a thing - then it can never be said that minimal/maximal results possible for random character generation is unbalanced. Especially free of context.

Again the problem with this notion of implicit systemic balance is it excludes the discretion of the GM from larger scope of the game. I.e. RAW alone does not describe how every game is conducted by intent or by fiat without the GM granting (de)emphasis on what aspects of the setting matter or don't. If someone is making the claim that system alone decides that - then why do you need a GM at all?
 
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tenbones

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I think if i was to run it now I would start the campaign with everyone being from the same nationality , and give people a free choice of background. I would have to work out the 'cost' of magical training or the benefit of not having had it.
This would be a very sensible approach. Naturally some players would convince the others to saying "Let's all be Melniboneans!" Which is what any GM going this route should prepare for.

Let's call the balls and strikes for what they are: Melniboneans are the prestige Ferrari car in this concept auto-show. The reason why it sounds sexy to have random chargen is because it's the Powerball prize if you roll 00 on the roulette table. This is what brings your players to the table to put their chip on it. Because the GM has zero responsibility for the results and can always throw it back in the faces of their players that roll "Nadsokar Leper" for stepping up to the plate and spinning the wheel in the first place.

But the overall results of those rolls, assuming the players even accept them, IS the responsibility of the GM to stitch together to make a game. In which case, yes, you'll get a mish-mash of shit you're going to try to crib into some bullshit and very unlikely scenario for the purposes of achieving party integrity.

I think all of that, while fun to watch, is inevitably asking for a less-optimal starting point for a campaign.

NOW to argue against my own words - I can see if a GM has a specific campaign concept, where matters of national origin may not matter, where it can totally work. Like the campaign is about an organization trying to do <X> and the PC's are in that organization. Then you can work with your players to cut and trim their backgrounds to make it work.
 

AsenRG

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As with all things it depends on the intent of the GM and what the players expectations are set to.

I submit that going into any RPG for me as a GM (less so as a player) is more about my attempts to give maximal freedom for players to do the things they want to do within the context of what I'm willing to run.

So there is always some give and take. But when I set parameters of This is the Setting, this is the System, this is the Starting area and situation, *everything* is up for negotiation. I have nothing against randomness, I'll use random table generators pretty frequently on things that don't matter on the surface. But for character generation, as a GM, it's a bit different.

As a player you have to be open enough and honest enough (or unable to articulate what you want) to settle for random characters generation. And it goes without saying - you either have to trust your GM, or understand your GM enough about the games they typically run to brave the rolls of chance that can, and will, produce very oddball characters from time to time.

I have no problem with a player telling me they want to randomize it. What I have a problem with is them not wanting to play the results and wasting our collective time trying to get their shit together, and eventually just doing it the way everyone else is doing it.

Which says something about me as a GM too. My players know fully well my NPC's aren't necessarily optimized for numbers, they're optimized for their places in the setting. The world they're going to playing in isn't created by random chance per se, but by the typical things that drive societies and cultures (or lack thereof) to do what they do. It's not quite complete social Darwinism, but those elements are in effect in various ways allowing for gross exceptions for political and cultural realities. So the problem with random generation for *my* games is less the fact that you're using random generation, than the fact that most random generation processes in games will not comport well for the kind of play my players expect.

THAT SAID - I can, and have had, many players that will do random chargen for the sheer challenge of it from which they derive a lot of fun. And I will back their play every time as long as they're committed to the results once we contextualize it to the game to our mutual agreement.

TL/DR - There is nothing wrong with Random Chargen as long as players are committed to the results.

Corollary: If you're willing to commit to random chargen as being a thing - then it can never be said that minimal/maximal results possible for random character generation is unbalanced. Especially free of context.

Again the problem with this notion of implicit systemic balance is it excludes the discretion of the GM from larger scope of the game. I.e. RAW alone does not describe how every game is conducted by intent or by fiat without the GM granting (de)emphasis on what aspects of the setting matter or don't. If someone is making the claim that system alone decides that - then why do you need a GM at all?
Sure I'm going to play what I roll. Now pass me the dice:thumbsup:!

Mind you - I'm not an enemy of point-buy at all, far from it. Creating a character for an online GURPS game was just as entertaining. But I'd honestly take a guided random chargen like in Warhammer 2 or Stormbringer over absolute freedom in point-buy.
Though of course, the best would be a lifepath, as in Traveller, Maelstrom Rome, or the Witcher RPG/Sengoku:tongue:!
What else are lifepaths, if not "guided random generation":devil:?


This would be a very sensible approach. Naturally some players would convince the others to saying "Let's all be Melniboneans!" Which is what any GM going this route should prepare for.

Let's call the balls and strikes for what they are: Melniboneans are the prestige Ferrari car in this concept auto-show. The reason why it sounds sexy to have random chargen is because it's the Powerball prize if you roll 00 on the roulette table. This is what brings your players to the table to put their chip on it. Because the GM has zero responsibility for the results and can always throw it back in the faces of their players that roll "Nadsokar Leper" for stepping up to the plate and spinning the wheel in the first place.

But the overall results of those rolls, assuming the players even accept them, IS the responsibility of the GM to stitch together to make a game. In which case, yes, you'll get a mish-mash of shit you're going to try to crib into some bullshit and very unlikely scenario for the purposes of achieving party integrity.

I think all of that, while fun to watch, is inevitably asking for a less-optimal starting point for a campaign.

NOW to argue against my own words - I can see if a GM has a specific campaign concept, where matters of national origin may not matter, where it can totally work. Like the campaign is about an organization trying to do <X> and the PC's are in that organization. Then you can work with your players to cut and trim their backgrounds to make it work.
I'm not sure what point you're arguing here. Sure, the GM might have something in mind that demands characters of the same nationality (possibly even Melniboneans)...

But you randomise the things that don't interfere with your plans. If you want to run a game in a given Young Kindgom, everybody is from that same place! Skip the roll, collect your benefits and go to next step...no different from a houserule like "create your characters on 4d6 drop lowest, but in order":grin:!

And then, some GMs might be running a pirate campaign, or one that at least starts on a pirate ship (plenty of recurring NPCs to pick from, and easy to add new party members). In this case I can totally see a mix of nationalities...though probably not lepers, those might well get left at the beach. Living in close quarters on a ship makes people more sensitive to stuff like that:shade:.
Consequently, such a GM might ask you to roll, and play what comes up. He might, or might not, allow you to skip or re-roll parts which you dislike - so maybe you're not going to be from Nadsokar, but he won't let you just pick Melnibonean, either. Or he won't let you pick it, unless someone else rolls it, too - because he finds it more plausible to have more than one Melnibonean than a lone Melnibonean - maybe exiles from a failed plot?

And yes, you can mix random and non-random. Just give the people who pick non-random the equivalent of rolling 3,5 per d6 (adjust for whatever dice are used) in stats and whatever else has to be picked, and let them spend it. Sure they get pretty average characters, but they're not going to have any major weaknesses they didn't pick for more points, so it's fine.
 
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zanshin

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However, part of that flexibility is understanding that some times players are incompatible with either group or game norms and being unfraid to tell them to look elsewhere.

Would you be good to play if I'm running Unhallowed Metropolis? Sure, it's designed character gen.

My En Garde! game? Of course not. You wouldn't just get to choose to be the first son of a Very Wealthy Duc every time and you've made it clear that giving you an average character isn't going to be fun for you if other people get to have the chance of having a more influential character through random generation.

That's no reflection of anything but subjective game preferences. I have no issue if someone wants to sit out my campaign because it's not the game for them. Or even if most players do (in which case I'm going to have to run something else or someone else can step forward to do so). I only object when players think they should be able to play in my game and complain if I tell them they aren't suitable. (Which includes people complaining about not knowing of other more suitable games to play in. Sorry, but that one's not my problem. I'll point you in the right direction if I know of something, but that's it).
Sure, you are right; if playing En Garde meant that there were no counterbalancing game advantages of poorer status (different connections among the demi monde or the lower ranks) and the game focused on courtly intrigue in which a junior child of a lesser house had little room for maneuver, then I'm not going to be particularly interested. But if your campaign gives the opportunity for an ambitious commoner to Steerpike his way to power & influence, then I could be.

But, probably not :smile:
 

zanshin

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This would be a very sensible approach. Naturally some players would convince the others to saying "Let's all be Melniboneans!" Which is what any GM going this route should prepare for.

Let's call the balls and strikes for what they are: Melniboneans are the prestige Ferrari car in this concept auto-show. The reason why it sounds sexy to have random chargen is because it's the Powerball prize if you roll 00 on the roulette table. This is what brings your players to the table to put their chip on it. Because the GM has zero responsibility for the results and can always throw it back in the faces of their players that roll "Nadsokar Leper" for stepping up to the plate and spinning the wheel in the first place.

But the overall results of those rolls, assuming the players even accept them, IS the responsibility of the GM to stitch together to make a game. In which case, yes, you'll get a mish-mash of shit you're going to try to crib into some bullshit and very unlikely scenario for the purposes of achieving party integrity.

I think all of that, while fun to watch, is inevitably asking for a less-optimal starting point for a campaign.

NOW to argue against my own words - I can see if a GM has a specific campaign concept, where matters of national origin may not matter, where it can totally work. Like the campaign is about an organization trying to do <X> and the PC's are in that organization. Then you can work with your players to cut and trim their backgrounds to make it work.
Yes, I was thinking that an all Melnibonean party could be fun - exiled together or on a research project or similar. A more powerful group can handle more potent opposition.
 

tenbones

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Sure I'm going to play what I roll. Now pass me the dice:thumbsup:!

Mind you - I'm not an enemy of point-buy at all, far from it. Creating a character for an online GURPS game was just as entertaining. But I'd honestly take a guided random chargen like in Warhammer 2 or Stormbringer over absolute freedom in point-buy.
Though of course, the best would be a lifepath, as in Traveller, Maelstrom Rome, or the Witcher RPG/Sengoku:tongue:!
What else are lifepaths, if not "guided random generation":devil:?
That's a good point about Lifepaths. And I agree with your assessment of them being "guided". I think somewhere in there is the secret sauce because what random tables are good for is to springboard something concrete and real on the table for the GM and player to consider from their respective roles in play.

What Lifepaths are really good for in terms of CP2020 (which is probably the best Lifepath chargen out there I can think of) - is to create backgrounds contextual to the setting with deep roots for both player and GM to immediately dig into.

But even then, I've run into Lifepath issues where players start royally fucked (or at least disenchanting for the player) where no amount of contextualization will win their buy-in. Oddly, I notice this is most prevalent around things that are cosmetic in nature, but I'll let that go for another topic...

So even in the context of Lifepath I'll typically let players roll and keep best out of three on individual tables for their background.

I've always been the advocate for RPG's always having a Lifepath system. Is it necessary? No. But if done correctly it can certainly speed things up and make things interesting while not negating player agency in their PC's. It definitely seems to thread a lot of needles in this particular discussion.

I'm not sure what point you're arguing here. Sure, the GM might have something in mind that demands characters of the same nationality (possibly even Melniboneans)...

But you randomise the things that don't interfere with your plans. If you want to run a game in a given Young Kindgom, everybody is from that same place! Skip the roll, collect your benefits and go to next step...no different from a houserule like "create your characters on 4d6 drop lowest, but in order":grin:!
Correct. That's why I'm making the distinction between RAW and <X> where <X> is anything else you do to mitigate random chargen as something implicit.

We're exactly on the same page. The issue, as I see it, is the claim that systems are imbalanced because of random character generation as an example. This is aimed directly as some kind of opposed idea to systems that don't have random character generation and the choices allowed, RAW, will contain things that numerically are not the same as other options. If you want to see a fantastic example of this - Talislanta.

I disagree with this premise entirely (and I know *you* are not making this claim, I'm speaking to this point specifically as it pertains to the thread-subject).

I'm in the camp that generally claims "balance" is an illusion. And I know it ruffles people's feathers, but my perspective is purely as a GM and not without strong caveats to this claim, I'm well aware of.

And then, some GMs might be running a pirate campaign, or one that at least starts on a pirate ship (plenty of recurring NPCs to pick from, and easy to add new party members). In this case I can totally see a mix of nationalities...though probably not lepers, those might well get left at the beach. Living in close quarters on a ship makes people more sensitive to stuff like that:shade:.

Definitely.

Now where we can shang-hai this point we're talking about back on course is the issue where a system is very difficult to pivot from a campaign direction *because* the mechanics render the PC's difficult to play in the new direction. There is an example of bad design.

Case in point - we're playing a game and the GM has stated outright we're playing Pirates, so our party makes Pirate based character with Pirate appropriate classes, then suddenly for reasons in game, we're thrust into circumstances where we're forced to do Mounted Combat all the time, going up against NPC's that are comprised of Mounted Combat classes with Mounted Combat Feats and abilities, and we're playing a little Pirate Class where all our class abilities are focused on Seamanship and building incrementally through crappy bonuses to get to some Ultimate Ability that renders our ship Unsinkable.

Systems like that - D&D where your only option is "Multiclassing" which is less than stellar design, are an example of that.

Caveat: This will only happen in Sandbox games.
Caveat: If you play Adventure Paths - the odds are you'll be playing a class/race combo that doesn't give a flying shit about the context of the world outside the module itself. This is why people obsess about "balance" by RAW not context. As our conversations on this forum show, it's pretty apparent most games are played on an adventure-basis, rather than open world sandbox.

Savage Worlds, once again, serves all these needs easily. You can be a pirate, crusader, wilderness warrior, and switch with the campaign/adventure shift without missing a beat *by design*. Your cavalier type mounted warrior is not going to lose a whole lot with his skills and Edges designed for mounted combat if suddenly thrust into the Underdark where his mount is useless. Because very few edges penalize him for using his abilities on being Mounted or not.

As a testament to my claim - look at the new Savage Worlds Pathfinder book. The "Classes" in there have those same flexibilities without forcing you to multi-class at all.

And this is a system design thing, not a GM prerogative issue. So I'm not saying system doesn't matter, I'm saying it's a four-way balancing act between System, Setting, GM, and player - with the onus of the work on the GM to make that cocktail of ingredients fly. Overemphasis on any one thing outside of GM, in the name of "balance" is a very flawed premise.
 

tenbones

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Yes, I was thinking that an all Melnibonean party could be fun - exiled together or on a research project or similar. A more powerful group can handle more potent opposition.
Absolutely.

This is why I mentioned if you're open to such a thing - why let it be random at all? But the GM is going to have to set the stakes to explain in-setting why this party of badasses is running commando missions overseas.

Sounds high-octane to me. I'm in!

Edit: And if a PC wants to be a Nadsokar Leper guide for the others - great. If you randomly yoke someone with this role... I think that's sub-optimal unless the players agree to it.
 

AsenRG

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That's a good point about Lifepaths. And I agree with your assessment of them being "guided". I think somewhere in there is the secret sauce because what random tables are good for is to springboard something concrete and real on the table for the GM and player to consider from their respective roles in play.

What Lifepaths are really good for in terms of CP2020 (which is probably the best Lifepath chargen out there I can think of) - is to create backgrounds contextual to the setting with deep roots for both player and GM to immediately dig into.

But even then, I've run into Lifepath issues where players start royally fucked (or at least disenchanting for the player) where no amount of contextualization will win their buy-in. Oddly, I notice this is most prevalent around things that are cosmetic in nature, but I'll let that go for another topic...

So even in the context of Lifepath I'll typically let players roll and keep best out of three on individual tables for their background.

I've always been the advocate for RPG's always having a Lifepath system. Is it necessary? No. But if done correctly it can certainly speed things up and make things interesting while not negating player agency in their PC's. It definitely seems to thread a lot of needles in this particular discussion.


Correct. That's why I'm making the distinction between RAW and <X> where <X> is anything else you do to mitigate random chargen as something implicit.

We're exactly on the same page.
The issue, as I see it, is the claim that systems are imbalanced because of random character generation as an example. This is aimed directly as some kind of opposed idea to systems that don't have random character generation and the choices allowed, RAW, will contain things that numerically are not the same as other options. If you want to see a fantastic example of this - Talislanta.

I disagree with this premise entirely (and I know *you* are not making this claim, I'm speaking to this point specifically as it pertains to the thread-subject).

I'm in the camp that generally claims "balance" is an illusion. And I know it ruffles people's feathers, but my perspective is purely as a GM and not without strong caveats to this claim, I'm well aware of.



Definitely.

Now where we can shang-hai this point we're talking about back on course is the issue where a system is very difficult to pivot from a campaign direction *because* the mechanics render the PC's difficult to play in the new direction. There is an example of bad design.

Case in point - we're playing a game and the GM has stated outright we're playing Pirates, so our party makes Pirate based character with Pirate appropriate classes, then suddenly for reasons in game, we're thrust into circumstances where we're forced to do Mounted Combat all the time, going up against NPC's that are comprised of Mounted Combat classes with Mounted Combat Feats and abilities, and we're playing a little Pirate Class where all our class abilities are focused on Seamanship and building incrementally through crappy bonuses to get to some Ultimate Ability that renders our ship Unsinkable.

Systems like that - D&D where your only option is "Multiclassing" which is less than stellar design, are an example of that.

Caveat: This will only happen in Sandbox games.
Caveat: If you play Adventure Paths - the odds are you'll be playing a class/race combo that doesn't give a flying shit about the context of the world outside the module itself. This is why people obsess about "balance" by RAW not context. As our conversations on this forum show, it's pretty apparent most games are played on an adventure-basis, rather than open world sandbox.


Savage Worlds, once again, serves all these needs easily. You can be a pirate, crusader, wilderness warrior, and switch with the campaign/adventure shift without missing a beat *by design*. Your cavalier type mounted warrior is not going to lose a whole lot with his skills and Edges designed for mounted combat if suddenly thrust into the Underdark where his mount is useless. Because very few edges penalize him for using his abilities on being Mounted or not.

As a testament to my claim - look at the new Savage Worlds Pathfinder book. The "Classes" in there have those same flexibilities without forcing you to multi-class at all.

And this is a system design thing, not a GM prerogative issue. So I'm not saying system doesn't matter, I'm saying it's a four-way balancing act between System, Setting, GM, and player - with the onus of the work on the GM to make that cocktail of ingredients fly. Overemphasis on any one thing outside of GM, in the name of "balance" is a very flawed premise.

Yeah, we are basically speaking about the same thing, being in the same camp. I just bolded the things that made me nod in agreement. Especially the last one:thumbsup:.


So yes, balance is an illusion, or even better said, it's often misunderstood to be a kind of static balance. While what we have with the four-way system is a dynamic balance:tongue:!

The two points where we differ:
1) You're talking from the POV of a GM by choice. I'm talking from the POV of someone who'd rather be the player, but GMs most of the time:grin:.
2) You believe the best lifepath out there is CP2020's. My own example would actually be Maelstrom Gothic or Maelstrom Rome, with Traveller being second, and CP2020 coming after that:shade:!

But those are all minor nitpicks, not suitable for anything more than a flamewar on some RPG forum, i.e. ultimately meaningless:devil:!
 

zanshin

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I'm in the camp that generally claims "balance" is an illusion. And I know it ruffles people's feathers, but my perspective is purely as a GM and not without strong caveats to this claim, I'm well aware of.


And this is a system design thing, not a GM prerogative issue. So I'm not saying system doesn't matter, I'm saying it's a four-way balancing act between System, Setting, GM, and player - with the onus of the work on the GM to make that cocktail of ingredients fly. Overemphasis on any one thing outside of GM, in the name of "balance" is a very flawed premise.
I fully agree with your final paragraph here. The game at the table takes all those ingredients to work, and you'll only get roughly equal spotlight access if the GM encourages it and the players set up to it.

I actually don't understand what you mean by balance is an illusion , given this final paragraph. Balance is an illusion in the context of system alone? Help me understand what that means to you , because I look at (previously rehearsed example) 3e & 4e D&D and know that it's much harder to overshadow PC's in 4e than in 3e.
 

AsenRG

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I fully agree with your final paragraph here. The game at the table takes all those ingredients to work, and you'll only get roughly equal spotlight access if the GM encourages it and the players set up to it.

I actually don't understand what you mean by balance is an illusion , given this final paragraph. Balance is an illusion in the context of system alone? Help me understand what that means to you , because I look at (previously rehearsed example) 3e & 4e D&D and know that it's much harder to overshadow PC's in 4e than in 3e.
I'm not Tenbones, but I can tell you why I say it is:thumbsup:.

If you don't account for the other three parts that tenbones mentioned - GM, players, setting - system alone is irrelevant. More than that, I think it's not a square, it's a pentagram: you have to account not only for every individual player's style, but for the group's playstyle as well. I.e. you can be the Diplomancer...but if the group is bored by your diplomancery, and goes off to the next dungeoncrawl, and then casts Silence to prevent enemy casters from casting, your character is now much less powerful even if he has metamagic feats that allow for non-vocal casting, isn't he:tongue:? (Yes, this example was contrived via the time-honoured method known as "ex recto", but you get the meaning. Also, this might be the group telling you you're being a dick by sprining a diplomancer on the game:devil:).

An "objectively more powerful" character can be rendered less powerful merely by being played by a player who doesn't like the assumed playstyle. Or vice versa. No, Warriors in DCC aren't more powerful than Wizards...but me and Jacqueline would still take on any wizard, because I like the assumed playstyle, and know how to maximize my advantages:grin:!

An "objectively more powerful" character can be rendered less powerful merely by being played against a GM who doesn't like the assumed playstyle. And vice versa. Referees are human, too, much as we try to be objective.

An "objectively more powerful" character can be rendered less powerful merely by being played in a campaign ill-suited for the playstyle. And vice-versa. Barbarian in a courtly intrigue game is a classic, both literally and literary:devil:.

The setting can make any character more or less powerful. Wait, your combo of classes gave you +20 to the Plead skill? Well, I've got no such skill. I have, however, a noble title/priestly investiture in a teocratic setting, you pleb:evil:!

...And so on and so forth, repeat for every interaction with the other four - according to me - corners. And then start anew for any combo of two or three of them. Which might be positive or negative influences, or mixed:shade:.
 
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zanshin

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I'm not Tenbones, but I can tell you why I say it is:thumbsup:.

If you don't account for the other three parts that tenbones mentioned - GM, players, setting - system alone is irrelevant. More than that, I think it's not a square, it's a pentagram: you have to account not only for every individual player's style, but for the group's playstyle as well. I.e. you can be the Diplomancer...but if the group is bored by your diplomancery, and goes off to the next dungeoncrawl, and then casts Silence to prevent enemy casters from casting, your character is now much less powerful even if he has metamagic feats that allow for non-vocal casting, isn't he:tongue:? (Yes, this example was contrived via the time-honoured method known as "ex recto", but you get the meaning. Also, this might be the group telling you you're being a dick by sprining a diplomancer on the game:devil:).

An "objectively more powerful" character can be rendered less powerful merely by being played by a player who doesn't like the assumed playstyle. Or vice versa. No, Warriors in DCC aren't more powerful than Wizards...but me and Jacqueline would still take on any wizard, because I like the assumed playstyle, and know how to maximize my advantages:grin:!

An "objectively more powerful" character can be rendered less powerful merely by being played against a GM who doesn't like the assumed playstyle. And vice versa. Referees are human, too, much as we try to be objective.

An "objectively more powerful" character can be rendered less powerful merely by being played in a campaign ill-suited for the playstyle. And vice-versa. Barbarian in a courtly intrigue game is a classic, both literally and literary:devil:.

The setting can make any character more or less powerful. Wait, your combo of classes gave you +20 to the Plead skill? Well, I've got no such skill. I have, however, a noble title/priestly investiture in a teocratic setting, you pleb:evil:!

...And so on and so forth, repeat for every interaction with the other four - according to me - corners. And then start anew for any combo of two or three of them. Which might be positive or negative influences, or mixed:shade:.
I'll definitely give you playstyle as well. That's a good point. I prefer a heroic and fast moving style which can clash with at least one member of my regular playgroup who likes to deliberate and plan the fuck out of everything.

Your examples of nullifying a 'more powerful' character are valid, but also don't go with my playstyle where the default assumption is the group are comrades and are working together to achieve their goals. It also seems that with the Diplomancer example a lot of unfun stuff is going on in the game to overcome the fact that there is a disparity of game impact between the characters. I feel that proves my point that characters with parity of game impact let you get on with the play.

Also by accepting that system is one point of your play pentacle, it matters even if it's a notional 20%.

In fact if players & GM buy into 'let's make sure we are equally awesome , in our own way' and choose a system and setting that enables it, you have achieved the concrete fact ;) of balance having had an affect on the play.
 

tenbones

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I'll definitely give you playstyle as well. That's a good point. I prefer a heroic and fast moving style which can clash with at least one member of my regular playgroup who likes to deliberate and plan the fuck out of everything.

Your examples of nullifying a 'more powerful' character are valid, but also don't go with my playstyle where the default assumption is the group are comrades and are working together to achieve their goals. It also seems that with the Diplomancer example a lot of unfun stuff is going on in the game to overcome the fact that there is a disparity of game impact between the characters. I feel that proves my point that characters with parity of game impact let you get on with the play.

Also by accepting that system is one point of your play pentacle, it matters even if it's a notional 20%.

In fact if players & GM buy into 'let's make sure we are equally awesome , in our own way' and choose a system and setting that enables it, you have achieved the concrete fact ;) of balance having had an affect on the play.

First off, A AsenRG did a great job not speaking for me but answering the point very closely to how I'd do it. heh.

I'm less interested in whether the diagram is a square, pentagram or whatever (but I acknowledge the subtler distinctions AsenRG made in regards to my basic formulation, they are real). The issues is this - "being equally awesome" as you're saying it, zanshin zanshin *demands* a GM that can reinforce that reality. Because numbers on paper, and a system alone will not make that happen.

I merely point at a good exaggerated example: Rifts. It's exaggerated because some concepts are *extremely* good at what they do, whether it's the Stealth guy, the Combat God, the Spell Tossing Uber Caster, the Social Guy etc. But if there is no GM to modulate the tempo and elements in the sandbox - such as the location the NPC's and their machinations, the entirety of the game can shift to one or more PC's "strengths" with trivial ease without the GM to contextualize those actions in relation to the game.

NOW if you're talking about 5 rando characters in a pre-fabbed module/AP, with a GM that doesn't adjust the adventure to the needs of his party? Well all bets are off. This is precisely where I can see why people might cry foul of "balance".

But in all cases the "balance" is going to have to be supplied by the GM. Yes, system, setting, and playstyle matters but none of it matters without a GM. A System alone can be numerically unbalanced in terms of options - but that's contextual to the setting it's trying to mirror. And different games will have different variables in that regard. If the system is trying to express the context of the setting correctly then the PC's and GM should approach the game accordingly.

If players obsess over the performance of their PC's in direct relation to the others - either obliquely (the Stealth guy is complaining that the Combat guy is "better") or directly (The Combat Guy is complaining the other Combat Guy is better because of <X>) - it's the GM's responsibility to resolve that in-game by emphasizing other qualities contextual to the setting that matter.

Case in point - if I have a player in Rifts who is playing a Gunslinger, and he's complaining that the other PC (a Glitterboy) is crushing it in combat and he feels superfluous, I merely point out that the Glitterboy player is rarely able to be in his suit, most of the game (at this stage) is taking place in town where the Gunslinger enjoys FAR more social benefits where he's engaging in what Gunslingers do - duels, shootouts with gangbangers in the streets etc. Places where you can't be in a Glitterboy suit dropping the bomb on monsters.

It's like complaining your six-shooter doesn't hit as hard as a tank. But contextually - they're entirely different from paper to what actually happens in the game.

It's the GM's job to make those differences meaningful - and you'll see those complaints utterly evaporate. Like I said - I do this every week with a Batman guy and a Superman guy at appropriate powerlevels (including the rest of the party that inhabit places inbetween in terms of power). And my players aren't special, they want to kick ass and flex just like everyone else, but if the GM understands the setting and genre, feeding those needs is a lot easier than someone in the GM chair that believes the system will do all the heavy lifting alone.
 

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First off, A AsenRG did a great job not speaking for me but answering the point very closely to how I'd do it. heh.

I'm less interested in whether the diagram is a square, pentagram or whatever (but I acknowledge the subtler distinctions AsenRG made in regards to my basic formulation, they are real). The issues is this - "being equally awesome" as you're saying it, zanshin zanshin *demands* a GM that can reinforce that reality. Because numbers on paper, and a system alone will not make that happen.

I merely point at a good exaggerated example: Rifts. It's exaggerated because some concepts are *extremely* good at what they do, whether it's the Stealth guy, the Combat God, the Spell Tossing Uber Caster, the Social Guy etc. But if there is no GM to modulate the tempo and elements in the sandbox - such as the location the NPC's and their machinations, the entirety of the game can shift to one or more PC's "strengths" with trivial ease without the GM to contextualize those actions in relation to the game.

NOW if you're talking about 5 rando characters in a pre-fabbed module/AP, with a GM that doesn't adjust the adventure to the needs of his party? Well all bets are off. This is precisely where I can see why people might cry foul of "balance".

But in all cases the "balance" is going to have to be supplied by the GM. Yes, system, setting, and playstyle matters but none of it matters without a GM. A System alone can be numerically unbalanced in terms of options - but that's contextual to the setting it's trying to mirror. And different games will have different variables in that regard. If the system is trying to express the context of the setting correctly then the PC's and GM should approach the game accordingly.

If players obsess over the performance of their PC's in direct relation to the others - either obliquely (the Stealth guy is complaining that the Combat guy is "better") or directly (The Combat Guy is complaining the other Combat Guy is better because of <X>) - it's the GM's responsibility to resolve that in-game by emphasizing other qualities contextual to the setting that matter.

Case in point - if I have a player in Rifts who is playing a Gunslinger, and he's complaining that the other PC (a Glitterboy) is crushing it in combat and he feels superfluous, I merely point out that the Glitterboy player is rarely able to be in his suit, most of the game (at this stage) is taking place in town where the Gunslinger enjoys FAR more social benefits where he's engaging in what Gunslingers do - duels, shootouts with gangbangers in the streets etc. Places where you can't be in a Glitterboy suit dropping the bomb on monsters.

It's like complaining your six-shooter doesn't hit as hard as a tank. But contextually - they're entirely different from paper to what actually happens in the game.

It's the GM's job to make those differences meaningful - and you'll see those complaints utterly evaporate. Like I said - I do this every week with a Batman guy and a Superman guy at appropriate powerlevels (including the rest of the party that inhabit places inbetween in terms of power). And my players aren't special, they want to kick ass and flex just like everyone else, but if the GM understands the setting and genre, feeding those needs is a lot easier than someone in the GM chair that believes the system will do all the heavy lifting alone.
I think we are wandering around in circles at this point. You have agreed system matters, I have agreed GM matters (and setting, playstyle and players come to that). People keep saying balance is an 'illusion' , I keep pointing out aspects of system that can push things towards balanced (non random attribute generation, classes or backgrounds with equal access to toys) and then people say yes but.

I am not sure that the dialogue is progressing now.
 

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I think we are wandering around in circles at this point. You have agreed system matters, I have agreed GM matters (and setting, playstyle and players come to that). People keep saying balance is an 'illusion' , I keep pointing out aspects of system that can push things towards balanced (non random attribute generation, classes or backgrounds with equal access to toys) and then people say yes but.

I am not sure that the dialogue is progressing now.
Balance, fairness and making things fun for everyone are not all the same. Nor are they all specifically because of the system, players or GM.
 

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I think we are wandering around in circles at this point. You have agreed system matters, I have agreed GM matters (and setting, playstyle and players come to that). People keep saying balance is an 'illusion' , I keep pointing out aspects of system that can push things towards balanced (non random attribute generation, classes or backgrounds with equal access to toys) and then people say yes but.

I am not sure that the dialogue is progressing now.
It's not, because...well, I get the impression you're not reading what we say.
Non-random attribute generation, classes/backgrounds with equal access to toys are only desirable as long as they 1) don't contradict the setting, which might often be at odds with "balance"*, and 2) depending on the interaction with the other four elements, might actually make the game less balanced, not more.

*No, my Knight in Pendragon doesn't get the same Glory, money, and skills that a peasant levvy member gets from being in the same battle, and living in the same year. That's why you wouldn't play peasants from the levvy in Pendragon, you'd play knights (or ladies): because the focus of the intended (Great Pendragon) campaign is on being nobles doing noble stuff. Period:shade:. Want to play a peasant? Learn to live with less toys.
 

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It's not, because...well, I get the impression you're not reading what we say.
Non-random attribute generation, classes/backgrounds with equal access to toys are only desirable as long as they 1) don't contradict the setting, which might often be at odds with "balance"*, and 2) depending on the interaction with the other four elements, might actually make the game less balanced, not more.

*No, my Knight in Pendragon doesn't get the same Glory, money, and skills that a peasant levvy member gets from being in the same battle, and living in the same year. That's why you wouldn't play peasants from the levvy in Pendragon, you'd play knights (or ladies): because the focus of the intended (Great Pendragon) campaign is on being nobles doing noble stuff. Period:shade:. Want to play a peasant? Learn to live with less toys.
I'll give you 1) and accept that balance is one of several design goals (I have said that repeatedly before) 2) Please explain how.

Watched Age of Samurai. battle for Japan? Great series on Netflix, highly recommended. Totoyomi Hideyoshi rose from peasant birth to become Shogun, because he had the personal attributes to take the opportunities that came his way. In a game context, he compensated for his lowly birth with exceptional cunning, intelligence and skill.

Now I accept Pendragon is about a setting for King Arthur that places Knights at the centre of the play and I don't have a problem with that, it assumes you start as a Knight. If it had/has other options (such as starting as a peasant) then I would expect there to be reasons why a peasant is a character in the game, and to have attributes, in the broadest sense, that make them a 'player' in the setting.

We are playing games of pretend elf. There is no reason, other than our deciding to because reasons, that one players character gets less access to the widgets that manipulate the game world than another.
 

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I'll give you 1) and accept that balance is one of several design goals (I have said that repeatedly before) 2) Please explain how.
Simple, but not the only possible examples: by leading players to make character build decisions that clash with setting concepts.
By leading players to create characters that would work better on paper, but actually clash with one of the other four corners, and are thus less efficient.


Watched Age of Samurai. battle for Japan? Great series on Netflix, highly recommended. Totoyomi Hideyoshi rose from peasant birth to become Shogun, because he had the personal attributes to take the opportunities that came his way. In a game context, he compensated for his lowly birth with exceptional cunning, intelligence and skill.
Never watched it, but I know a bit about the Taiko:thumbsup:.
And...so? You can compensate for less powerful characters by cunning and intelligence (it's highly unlikely his skills were higher than those of the other nobles, though he might have had skills they didn't have at all - like, several sources mention his skill at disguise, which saved his life at least once).
I see it regularly on my table. Like, even when I cut the points I give to the more skilled players by 20-30%, they still manage to make at least an equal impact.
If anything, Hideyoshi is an argument against the usefulness of balance, man:evil:!
If this was a campaign, and we had to had balanced PCs, he'd have been a samurai, too. Like Pendragon knights.
But his player actually took a fugly (they didn't call him "monkey" for his good looks:devil:) low-born character and made him...Shogun:grin:!

I can imagine how this probably would have gone if it was a campaign, and it's frankly extremely funny...
Nobunaga's player: "I slay them all!"
Hidyoshi's player: "This is how the game is played, guys!"
Tokugawa's player: "What are your results in the Winter Phase? Is he going to die of old age before me? Yes, I'm biding my time."

Now I accept Pendragon is about a setting for King Arthur that places Knights at the centre of the play and I don't have a problem with that, it assumes you start as a Knight. If it had/has other options (such as starting as a peasant) then I would expect there to be reasons why a peasant is a character in the game, and to have attributes, in the broadest sense, that make them a 'player' in the setting.
I disagree.
You had other options in previous editions, yes. However, they were either OP (wizards, I believe), or never were as good as being a knight, from what I've seen (yes, I have some of the supplements). AFAIK, it was basically considered an exercise in futility, which also clashed with the central premise of the game - and then P5e admitted the fact.

We are playing games of pretend elf. There is no reason, other than our deciding to because reasons, that one players character gets less access to the widgets that manipulate the game world than another.
Low-born characters in a medieval-style world would have less access to such widgets. It's a fact.
Actually, half the reason characters like Conan and Hideyoshi are cool is that they start from a position of disadvantage, and manage to raise to the top despite being the most unlikely contenders. Your insistence of granting them "remedial bonuses" actually makes them less cool.
As stated before: I'd take my ratcatcher, and play him to the hilt. You can play your wizard that you picked instead of rolling...and we'll see who is the better player:shade:!
 

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Then its incumbent on Lowborn characters to be played by their players to distinguish themselves to gain access to social widgets that allow them to rise, despite nearly impossible circumstances, like Hideyoshi, to rise to the top.

If players are not taking the risks that Hideyoshi did - like proving himself on the battlefield as a mere ashigaru, time and again, and that the NPC Nobunaga, played by the GM didn't break tradition based on merit (and also underescoring Nobunaga's real nature as being more concerned with results over tradition) that alone sets the stage of a campaign where possibilities *can* happen.

At no point am I discussing a specific system, because this idea is beyond system mechanics. At the start of this campaign it's "This is the Campaign where the PC's are part of the Oda Clan. The Oda Clan are currently leaderless, and factionalized. The PC's are part of the Oda Nobunaga faction, and campaign starts where Nobunaga begins his march against his own cousins and brothers to unify their land.

Under this umbrella - the PC's can be plugged in at any level. They can disregard their master's wishes, they can sell him out. They can serve faithfully and loyally. They can interact with all the NPC's you create to give the circumstances all the drama and high stakes the era deserves. You've given them a *chance* to defy social customs based on social rank on either side of the equation.

You then choose the system that will best emphasize the elements of play you want. You'll have to create rules where necessary, or crib them. Or you can improvise and make it purely in-game and social.
 

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Then its incumbent on Lowborn characters to be played by their players to distinguish themselves to gain access to social widgets that allow them to rise, despite nearly impossible circumstances, like Hideyoshi, to rise to the top.

If players are not taking the risks that Hideyoshi did - like proving himself on the battlefield as a mere ashigaru, time and again, and that the NPC Nobunaga, played by the GM didn't break tradition based on merit (and also underescoring Nobunaga's real nature as being more concerned with results over tradition) that alone sets the stage of a campaign where possibilities *can* happen.

At no point am I discussing a specific system, because this idea is beyond system mechanics. At the start of this campaign it's "This is the Campaign where the PC's are part of the Oda Clan. The Oda Clan are currently leaderless, and factionalized. The PC's are part of the Oda Nobunaga faction, and campaign starts where Nobunaga begins his march against his own cousins and brothers to unify their land.

Under this umbrella - the PC's can be plugged in at any level. They can disregard their master's wishes, they can sell him out. They can serve faithfully and loyally. They can interact with all the NPC's you create to give the circumstances all the drama and high stakes the era deserves. You've given them a *chance* to defy social customs based on social rank on either side of the equation.

You then choose the system that will best emphasize the elements of play you want. You'll have to create rules where necessary, or crib them. Or you can improvise and make it purely in-game and social.
Sounds like a potentially fun campaign. My points respond to tenbones and AsenRG as I am crap at multiquote.

My point is that characters like Hideyoshi (or Conan) have exceptional other attributes that give them the place at the table where others have the advantage of social caste. Conan is routinely seen as have truly exceptional strength, speed and agility as well as being clever and charismatic.

As we are playing a game here, not a historical simulation exercise, then at my table all players should have equivalent amount of widgets (which may be different by caste/class, my Iga peasant will have mediocre skill at Cha No Yu, but hey, Ninja!).

Also sucks to play a woman at any historical juncture - lets just ignore that as well - I don't want female characters to be weaker or routinely subordinated just because Patriachy is a fact.

And yes 5e Pendragon decided to make everyone Knights, because that's what maintained the fun of the setting. People started from a more equal place out the gate. Clearly a better way to design the game.
 

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Balance in a RPG cannot be measured with pin-point scientific precision for every possible eventuality, therefore it is a complete and utter fallacy that should NEVER even be discussed in a RPG. Cuz there's ZERO way to tell whether 12d6 is more damage than 1d10, or +2 to a skill roll is better than a +15, or something.

How's that for a contribution to an 11 page discussion I haven't even read yet? :tongue:

I'm team "Balance" for what it's worth. Obviously you can't account for every eventuality, but it doesn't mean I'm not gonna throw a ballpark figure when weighing some abilities against others.
 

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Sounds like a potentially fun campaign. My points respond to tenbones and AsenRG as I am crap at multiquote.
Multi-quote is harder here. But if you reply to the different posts in different tabs, you can then mix and match them as regular text:thumbsup:.

My point is that characters like Hideyoshi (or Conan) have exceptional other attributes that give them the place at the table where others have the advantage of social caste. Conan is routinely seen as have truly exceptional strength, speed and agility as well as being clever and charismatic.
Yeah, and Conan has also met stronger enemies, and probably faster as well. He still wins because he's being played by a good player.
And what, pray tell, is Hideyoshi's "strong attribute"?
Again, good player, not game-level advantages:evil:!

As we are playing a game here, not a historical simulation exercise, then at my table all players should have equivalent amount of widgets (which may be different by caste/class, my Iga peasant will have mediocre skill at Cha No Yu, but hey, Ninja!).

Also sucks to play a woman at any historical juncture - lets just ignore that as well - I don't want female characters to be weaker or routinely subordinated just because Patriachy is a fact.
Yeah, and I told you that this is selling such characters short:shade:.

And yes 5e Pendragon decided to make everyone Knights, because that's what maintained the fun of the setting. People started from a more equal place out the gate. Clearly a better way to design the game.

No, I strongly suspect that they simply had enough with people first complaining they want to play non-knights, and then, when they produced the material, complaining that they don't get the advantages that Knights have...:devil:
So they're starting at an enforced equal place now. Which is also helping to emulate the narrative of Mallory's works, which leave preciously few space for non-knightly characters:grin:!
But that's not a better way to design a game. It's a different way to design a game, which also has the advantage to reduce the complaints:tongue:.
If you want to see what Pendragon might have been? Go check Sengoku by Gold Rush Games and imagine the same for Arthurian England.
 

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Multi-quote is harder here. But if you reply to the different posts in different tabs, you can then mix and match them as regular text:thumbsup:.


Yeah, and Conan has also met stronger enemies, and probably faster as well. He still wins because he's being played by a good player.
And what, pray tell, is Hideyoshi's "strong attribute"?
Again, good player, not game-level advantages:evil:!


Yeah, and I told you that this is selling such characters short:shade:.



No, I strongly suspect that they simply had enough with people first complaining they want to play non-knights, and then, when they produced the material, complaining that they don't get the advantages that Knights have...:devil:
So they're starting at an enforced equal place now. Which is also helping to emulate the narrative of Mallory's works, which leave preciously few space for non-knightly characters:grin:!
But that's not a better way to design a game. It's a different way to design a game, which also has the advantage to reduce the complaints:tongue:.
If you want to see what Pendragon might have been? Go check Sengoku by Gold Rush Games and imagine the same for Arthurian England.
Nicely expressed. I am going to agree to disagree. Player skill can (and does) vary, in different ways. I want to play systems that let the players express their characters and there is no merit, for me, in creating disparity of capability for their characters to satisfy the perceived needs of the setting. YMMV.

I accept that you prize verisimilitude to the genre and that is one of your driving priorities. My priority is a fun shared game space for the 3 hours or so that we get to play every week or so. Our games start off with the intention of being campaigns, so people will have their characters for a goodly while. In a one shot I can fully embrace that I am having an opportunity to display the full range of my ham acting skills, and if my character dies while I am being true to it, it's all part of the fun of the play.

I did have Sengoku, but it didn't grab me despite my love of mythic Japan and I sold it a goodly while ago. I also have Pendragon and have played it a tiny bit. I like the idea of it, but hasn't happened yet.

Hideyoshi's strong attributes? Clearly highly intelligent and charismatic. I also understand his wife was a brilliant support to him, so that's a perk/asset. He also must have been a pretty good warrior to have distinguished himself enough to get the notice of the Daimyo, and seized the opportunity provided by Nobunaga for Ashigaru to get proper training & equipment.

At the play table a peasant is there with the Knights (in whatever pseudo medieval setting) representing a player because that peasant has some mix of capabilities that mean the knights respect them enough to be part of their quest.

To use another analogy, in Game of Thrones if a woman chooses to be a warrior, they get to be just as capable, whether that's as Brienne or Arya. The fiction is there to support the player making a character they enjoy.
 

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Nicely expressed. I am going to agree to disagree. Player skill can (and does) vary, in different ways. I want to play systems that let the players express their characters and there is no merit, for me, in creating disparity of capability for their characters to satisfy the perceived needs of the setting. YMMV.

I accept that you prize verisimilitude to the genre and that is one of your driving priorities. My priority is a fun shared game space for the 3 hours or so that we get to play every week or so. Our games start off with the intention of being campaigns, so people will have their characters for a goodly while. In a one shot I can fully embrace that I am having an opportunity to display the full range of my ham acting skills, and if my character dies while I am being true to it, it's all part of the fun of the play.
Okay this is a fair point. But I already addressed this in my contention that "balance as illusion" is directly related to the types of games I run - which is sandbox campaigning.

If you're running "adventures" - I think that puts a necessary constraint on the ruleset you use. And it puts a higher emphasis on you playing the rules over the setting (depends on the ruleset/setting you're using). I mean after all, the concern here is that the players have numerical parity *over* the setting conceits for the purposes of doing fast-paced one-and-done game sessions that may or may not be connected.

Continuity may exist between sessions, but they're of lesser concern over the numerical needs you're stressing. This is a *huge* difference between how sandbox games are run vs. AP's.

I would also submit that the mechanical needs you're stressing are only relevant for some kind of psychological point-counting like a video-game that to me gets in the way of deeper play. But this is something that I find usually has to be demonstrated to those without that experience. (and this is something I'm becoming more and more aware of as I pick up newer gamers into my group).

My character (when I'm playing) is not defined by what other players are playing. I'd even say it's not defined by the mechanics. The mechanics only express what I *do*. But this is the big difference in our positions on "balance" (and why I say it's an illusion). If players are looking at one another and dick-measuring every inch of their PC's for the purposes of body-count (let's be real here - no one ever complained that another PC is a better social-character than another), the problem is really how the GM is presenting the game itself, if that's not the intent.

I did have Sengoku, but it didn't grab me despite my love of mythic Japan and I sold it a goodly while ago. I also have Pendragon and have played it a tiny bit. I like the idea of it, but hasn't happened yet.

Hideyoshi's strong attributes? Clearly highly intelligent and charismatic. I also understand his wife was a brilliant support to him, so that's a perk/asset. He also must have been a pretty good warrior to have distinguished himself enough to get the notice of the Daimyo, and seized the opportunity provided by Nobunaga for Ashigaru to get proper training & equipment.
But did he have those things at the start of his career? Does your system you're choosing to express this setting allow for statistical progress? Or just "class features"? Does your game *allow* for organic growth like acquiring spontaneous NPC's for support in the form of cohorts and contacts etc. Or are you just running AP's and you get what the module tells you?

There is a vast difference between these poles that you as a GM have to decide on - and you have to make those decisions with a firm hand. Again, if you want the "system" to be the primary arbiter of "balance" - you're going to invariably fail. No system meets the needs of all its players in any RPG with depth. The best AP's will not take into account the desires of every player. This is why the GM needs to have the skills to conduct the game to be what they envision. Rules alone do not make "balance".

At the play table a peasant is there with the Knights (in whatever pseudo medieval setting) representing a player because that peasant has some mix of capabilities that mean the knights respect them enough to be part of their quest.

To use another analogy, in Game of Thrones if a woman chooses to be a warrior, they get to be just as capable, whether that's as Brienne or Arya. The fiction is there to support the player making a character they enjoy.

This is a very top-down approach for playing. I would approach it from the bottom up - and I think the fiction you're citing does that as well. Brienne wasn't a justification for women to be warriors AT ALL in GoT.

Brienne paid the in-setting Social Price for transgressing the social norms of the setting - she was a big, huge, ugly brute. There literally are no female warriors like her in the whole of Westeros up to the current book. She is by definition a bit of a snowflake character (and one of my favorites in the series). As a game conceit, if this were my campaign, this is a player asking me if they could play a female with all the necessary attributes to be a great knight, without actually being a male. And the ugly/brute thing would be Edges/Hindrances they picked to help round the character out.

But this is precisely where system becomes important in terms of how you want the Player to express this idea in the game. GoT is not a linear AP or module. So choosing the system that will best exemplify the totality of what Brienne is in the book should be a huge consideration. D&D for example doesn't do much mechanically for Brienne's disadvantages for the player. The GM can push those narratively with ease in the game, but the player needs to understand that there is *zero* mechanical benefit for it. Which means from the top-down view this would feel mechanically "unfair" unless you are going to say Brienne has a low Charisma score and huge physical ones and leave it at that. Sure you could do this. Does it mean that it's unbalanced? This depends on what the GM emphasizes in direct proportion to the settings conceits. A male character with the same attributes in Westeros would certainly not have to deal with the same social issues that Brienne does based purely on her gender, and the social-class she was born into, AND the social class she obsesses about being part of which excludes women for the primary reason that they typically aren't doing what the men are doing.

Your example of Arya is relevant too - depends on where you want to start her. Arya had to be trained from being a castle princess tom-boy through *many* ordeals and several mentors to become what she'd be later on. Putting a class to her early on, using D&D for example would have been hard. A princess Thief? Ehhhh....

But if you pick a system like Pendragon you could certainly do it based on skills. And at the start of her journey she'd be pretty sub-optimal for the shit she's doing. Again, depends on how the GM uses the system in question to express that kind of play for her journey.

GoT is a *really* bad example of using AP-style play to discuss "balance" when the conceits of AP-style play are very different from sprawling fiction novels which work better at scale in sandbox mode where literally *none* of this is an issue, if the GM is on their toes and knows how to run things.
 

AsenRG

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Nicely expressed. I am going to agree to disagree.

Fair enough.

Player skill can (and does) vary, in different ways.
Indeed. And, frankly, not everybody is a good candidate for playing Hideyoshi. I know some players who wouldn't be able to pull it even with the most generous system:thumbsup:!

I want to play systems that let the players express their characters and there is no merit, for me, in creating disparity of capability for their characters to satisfy the perceived needs of the setting.
Yeah, we disagree here. Strongly. (I mean, I have mentioned that everybody is likely to be capable at what they do for a living - but this might well be things that aren't even measured in a system. The same way that not all systems even have a "Use Rope" skill...although hunters, sailors, climbers, survivalists, torturers, such people, might well deem it necessary to express their skillset).
And basically, we could just stop at this.

I accept that you prize verisimilitude to the genre and that is one of your driving priorities.
Not genre, setting. Genre...comes afterwards in the list of priorities.
But other than that, yes:thumbsup:.


My priority is a fun shared game space for the 3 hours or so that we get to play every week or so.
...and in your estimates, that's not a priority for me:shade:?

Our games start off with the intention of being campaigns, so people will have their characters for a goodly while. In a one shot I can fully embrace that I am having an opportunity to display the full range of my ham acting skills, and if my character dies while I am being true to it, it's all part of the fun of the play.
You could maybe play a couple one-shots, then?
Or not.

Hideyoshi's strong attributes? Clearly highly intelligent and charismatic. I also understand his wife was a brilliant support to him, so that's a perk/asset. He also must have been a pretty good warrior to have distinguished himself enough to get the notice of the Daimyo, and seized the opportunity provided by Nobunaga for Ashigaru to get proper training & equipment.
Highly intelligent, yes. I'd argue that he was more intelligent than charismatic, knowing how to manipulate people more than being able to sway them...the swaying? That's what Oda did. Though he also did a fair amount of manipulation, too.
Also, he didn't achieve much that was note-worthy in battle, so I'm scratching that off. How do I know?
Nobody told tales about them, not even after he was a shogun. You'd think there would have been enough flatterers telling the tale...:evil:
No: what he was best at was intelligence and being cold-blooded. (Yes, I've done a modest amount of digging, he's a very interesting figure). All sources agree that he was really good at keeping a presence of mind even under danger.
So it's more likely that he attracted Oda's attention not by this, not by any particular skill (though his skills were no doubt adequate).

And "intelligence and being able to think on his feet even under duress"...we come back to "good player".

At the play table a peasant is there with the Knights (in whatever pseudo medieval setting) representing a player because that peasant has some mix of capabilities that mean the knights respect them enough to be part of their quest.
Well, IRL it would be like that, yes (or they're planning to swindle the peasant they suspect to be rich, or something else untowards is going on). But in an RPG, to me that's more likely to be a case of "PCs get special treatment". Maybe I'm just getting cynical from having seen it once too many.
In fact, I know I am, so maybe that's the explanation all along. I can't really say.

To use another analogy, in Game of Thrones if a woman chooses to be a warrior, they get to be just as capable, whether that's as Brienne or Arya. The fiction is there to support the player making a character they enjoy.
...not really? Brienne is a knight, alright, but it's not like she gets to be an warrior and a real "noble Lady" at the same time. And most don't treat her as the latter, except unless it would profit them. But she's got some very real disadvantages to go with the attributes that make her combat skills possible in the first place, too.
What she is, except the setting lacks the concept, is aridani:shade:.

Arya? Arya is also someone who is basically an outsider in her own social milieu, and might well have become another Brienne...except a speed-based one. But as the story goes, she becomes the prototypical "child soldier", and probably is modeled after them.
Most people treat Arya as cool and stuff. I agree, she is kinda cool...but what she actually is, is a showcase why children should be kept away from the killing tasks.
Now think about the fact that the only things that make her unusual are a) her being noble, and b) being trained in a speedy way of killing that doesn't require strength she's never likely to develop.
 
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