Game Balance

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robertsconley

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A game can help or get in the way of that goal.
A game can work with how the referee thinks about a setting or genre. In which case it can be less work to use. Or it doesn't in which case it may take more work to use. But how it used is still on the referee. If the game gets in the way then it still on the referee for opting to use the system in the first place.
 

zanshin

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A game can work with how the referee thinks about a setting or genre. In which case it can be less work to use. Or it doesn't in which case it may take more work to use. But how it used is still on the referee. If the game gets in the way then it still on the referee for opting to use the system in the first place.
So there are games which are less balanced and make it more difficult to give opportunities for the players to share the limelight? I agree with you, and would cite 4e D&D at the balanced end of the spectrum and Rifts as the oft cited example at the other end.
 

CRKrueger

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Pretty much yeah.

What works in stories doesn't work in games all the time. It works in Avengers and Justice League because of... narrative conceits and the authors going out of their way to make it work.



I didn't bring up niche protection.

And that's what I'm saying is "broad balance". Call it setting modeling or whatever you want, that's fine, if you just hate the word "balance".

In all of your examples you've given, that's been maintained, and I agree with you. So long as every "profession" or whatever is good at the things they're good at, then you've achieved at least broad balance. There's a reason to choose them.

How are you defining balance beyond that?
Balance is an attempt to...balance. Actively create equality, equilibrium, etc. It’s not “balanced“ that a .44 magnum is harder to shoot, then a .38, it doesn’t do more damage to compensate for the difficulty. Both are simply due to the Laws of Physics. God’s not trying to make things fair for .38 or .44 magnum users. It is what it is.

Defining accurate setting modelling as some form of balance is like saying the reason Gazelles are faster than Lions, is so that Cheetahs will have something to eat too.
 

TristramEvans

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Pretty much yeah.

What works in stories doesn't work in games all the time. It works in Avengers and Justice League because of... narrative conceits and the authors going out of their way to make it work.

eh, going to have to disagree with you there. Having characters of disparate power levels works as long as each player is satisfied by their ability to contribute. Just because Batman can't punch as hard as Superman or Wonder Woman, or Hawkeye's gimmick isn't as as strong as mjolnir, there's no reason they can't contribute to problem solving in the game just as much. Superman doesn't possess the detective abilities, stealth skills, or resources that Batman does, Thor can't really do much outside of hit things and he can't be everywhere at once. If a player is enjoying themselves embodying a character they love, that absolutely trumps any concerns about comparing themselves to their team-mates. It's really just juggling giving everyone something to do, ad that doesn't require narrative conciets, just complex obstacles and multi-faceted problems.
 

robiswrong

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eh, going to have to disagree with you there. Having characters of disparate power levels works as long as each player is satisfied by their ability to contribute. Just because Batman can't punch as hard as Superman or Wonder Woman, or Hawkeye's gimmick isn't as as strong as mjolnir, there's no reason they can't contribute to problem solving in the game just as much. Superman doesn't possess the detective abilities, stealth skills, or resources that Batman does, Thor can't really do much outside of hit things and he can't be everywhere at once. If a player is enjoying themselves embodying a character they love, that absolutely trumps any concerns about comparing themselves to their team-mates. It's really just juggling giving everyone something to do, ad that doesn't require narrative conciets, just complex obstacles and multi-faceted problems.
Sure, but then you've already accepted that there's no balance and are working around that one way or the other (see my methods in response to your statement about niche protection)

I mean, if you don't care about balance at all, then any system can put together Batman and Superman. Usually when people say that there's an inherent "but have it be somewhat balanced" part of the statement, otherwise just about any system that can do it at all can do it.
 

TristramEvans

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Sure, but then you've already accepted that there's no balance and are working around that one way or the other (see my methods in response to your statement about niche protection)

I mean, if you don't care about balance at all, then any system can put together Batman and Superman. Usually when people say that there's an inherent "but have it be somewhat balanced" part of the statement, otherwise just about any system that can do it at all can do it.

Sure yeah, I completely accept there is no balance in my games, except insofar as I try to provide the opportunity for each player to have their chance in the "limelight"
 

robiswrong

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Sure yeah, I completely accept there is no balance in my games, except insofar as I try to provide the opportunity for each player to have their chance in the "limelight"
Then let me clarify my statement:

The idea that "superman and batman can play the same game in a 'balanced' way", and that that should be the benchmark for balance in game design, is a terrible idea and should die in a fire.

Obviously, if you don't care, then you don't care, and are accepting that it's not "balanced", therefore using it as a litmus test for "balance" is irrelevant.
 

robiswrong

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IOW, Batman and Superman aren't "balanced". If you're okay with that, cool, any system can do it.

If you're not okay with that, don't try to force it and have a system "balance" it for you. It won't. Anything that will make it "work" in a game isn't mechanical, it's in the setting/world/scenario.

And it's a terrible benchmark for whether a Supers system does a good job. Hell, I even just saw Champions writeups for the two.... and they came in at 1k and 1400 points each.
 

robertsconley

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So there are games which are less balanced and make it more difficult to give opportunities for the players to share the limelight? I agree with you, and would cite 4e D&D at the balanced end of the spectrum and Rifts as the oft cited example at the other end.
No there are games that doesn't match what the referee has in mind for the setting and genre. But get used anyway because of inexperience or reasons of expedience. D&D 4e is fantasy superheroics 24/7, if that not how you view setting then you have a lot of work ahead if you want to use the D&D 4e system as it is an exception based system. With Rifts the setting is baked into how it mechanics and list of stuff (monsters, powers, skills, equipment, etc) are setup and because there so much of it it also a lot of work to use if you don't share Siembieda's assumptions of how the Rift setting ought to go.

But if your campaign is about fantasy superheroics or you think the Rift setting is great 'as is' then both will save you a lot of time.

The misconception here is that there some absolute standard of balance that can be achieved. Like Speed of Light and Einstein "balance" is all relative to the goals of your campaign and the setting you use.

People discuss how can Batman and Superman shine? Well the answer is found by reading World Finest and Justice League. The author had to grapple with issues to make interesting stories out of Batman and Superman teaming up. There was a bunch of standard tropes and story beats used over and over again to make it work. These things can be adapted to a RPG campaign even if the mechanic are the worst case where Batman is that much of a skilled human and Superman is that much more powerful.

But if you throw Batman in the midst of a typical Superman situation or Superman into a Batman case then the result of going to fairly negative for the Batman character as he outclassed in nearly every way except maybe tactics and intellect compared to Superman.

None of this mechanics can help with. Only by teaching the referee how this can be done can this work.
 

robertsconley

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I mean, if you don't care about balance at all, then any system can put together Batman and Superman. Usually when people say that there's an inherent "but have it be somewhat balanced" part of the statement, otherwise just about any system that can do it at all can do it.
Except the issue is that the majority of RPGs out there are general purpose widgets. Meant to handle most situations found in a particular setting or genre. The ones that are not are very narrow in their focus. In short the author "cheated" by omitting anything that would imbalance the character in the campaign. Cheated not in the sense of it bad, but cheated in the sense of course they can have balance they simplified thing to point where it possible.
 

robiswrong

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Except the issue is that the majority of RPGs out there are general purpose widgets. Meant to handle most situations found in a particular setting or genre. The ones that are not are very narrow in their focus. In short the author "cheated" by omitting anything that would imbalance the character in the campaign. Cheated not in the sense of it bad, but cheated in the sense of course they can have balance they simplified thing to point where it possible.
I'm really not sure what point you're responding to here. It seems like you think I'm saying something that not only am I not, but I frankly have no idea of what it is.
 

TJS

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A lot of what aiming for mechanical balance does is remove natural points of balance, by looking at things through an artificially narrowed lens.

Take rapiers vs pole-arms. In the real world a Pole-arm was better than a rapier just about every time. Yet. People trained with rapiers extensively. The superiority of a pole-arm was balanced around the fact that it wasn't really practical to carry one around everywhere.

Yet games tend to create this ridiculous false balance where they ignore circumstances and insist a lightly armoured rapier guy and a pole-arm weilder in plate need to be balanced against each other in the abstract, so they are equally effective within the same combat (And it means that if you actually apply practical constraints to the pole-arm guy it starts to feel like you are unfairly punishing his character).

The issue is the kind of balance. In a way the historical weapons were already balanced, as evidenced by the fact they were used during the same historical period. (We're not talking about a longbow vs an M16).
 
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hawkeyefan

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None of this mechanics can help with. Only by teaching the referee how this can be done can this work.

I agree with most of the rest of your post, but this last bit, I don’t think that’s true. I don’t say this to discount the input from the GM. Certainly the GM has a lot of influence. But the mechanics can absolutely make the GM’s job easier. Or harder.
 

robertsconley

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But the mechanics can absolutely make the GM’s job easier. Or harder.
I said this multiple times already in the thread. System can be more work or save work for a referee for given setting or genre.

The referee isn't a leaf blowing hither and yon on the winds of the mechanics. They can choose to do the work to adapt the system or not. If they don't then they have a choice to end the campaign, change the campaign to a system that is better suited, or let it morph into the one depicted by the system being used.

I can sit down with a wiki, sort it out, and run Dune with Traveller or better yet Star Frontiers with judicious modifications and additions. or I could pick up the new Dune RPG where the relevant details sorted out with numerous subsystems explicitly designed to bring elements of the Dune setting (and unfortunately story) to life. However if I try to run Dune with Star Frontiers 'as is' the result isn't going to feel like the Dune setting as depicted in the novel. Too many details are different and jarring for that to happen.
 

David Johansen

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hmmm...Star Frontiers Dune.

First off everyone is human but specialized training and breeding are the norm. Take a +10 to any one stat or pick a special ability like face dancing or noble status to represent this. Bene Gessert abilities are a separate skill category. It'd have Prana Bindu training allowing a +20 Strength, Stamina, or Reflexes boost for 1d10 Stamina damage per round, Subtle Observation gives the ability to ask the GM questions, Truth Trance is limited to Reverend Mothers with access to spice but pretty much makes it impossible to decieve them, Inner Voices allows the Reverend Mother to ask questions about past events through ancesteral memories. BG training can be your PSA or an ordinary skill but it's expensive. You can play a Kumkwat Hagendaz candidate but every time you take spice there's a 90% chance you go crazy for 1d10 rounds and then drop dead.

You'd probably want to build a list of specialized drugs and poisons. Knife fighting with force shields is something Star Frontiers already has rules for.
 

zanshin

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No there are games that doesn't match what the referee has in mind for the setting and genre. But get used anyway because of inexperience or reasons of expedience. D&D 4e is fantasy superheroics 24/7, if that not how you view setting then you have a lot of work ahead if you want to use the D&D 4e system as it is an exception based system. With Rifts the setting is baked into how it mechanics and list of stuff (monsters, powers, skills, equipment, etc) are setup and because there so much of it it also a lot of work to use if you don't share Siembieda's assumptions of how the Rift setting ought to go.

But if your campaign is about fantasy superheroics or you think the Rift setting is great 'as is' then both will save you a lot of time.

The misconception here is that there some absolute standard of balance that can be achieved. Like Speed of Light and Einstein "balance" is all relative to the goals of your campaign and the setting you use.

People discuss how can Batman and Superman shine? Well the answer is found by reading World Finest and Justice League. The author had to grapple with issues to make interesting stories out of Batman and Superman teaming up. There was a bunch of standard tropes and story beats used over and over again to make it work. These things can be adapted to a RPG campaign even if the mechanic are the worst case where Batman is that much of a skilled human and Superman is that much more powerful.

But if you throw Batman in the midst of a typical Superman situation or Superman into a Batman case then the result of going to fairly negative for the Batman character as he outclassed in nearly every way except maybe tactics and intellect compared to Superman.

None of this mechanics can help with. Only by teaching the referee how this can be done can this work.
Your position is too absolutist. Good mechanics and a narrowing of the impact of system mastery make it easier for balance to be achieved between characters and therefore giving greater opportunity for players.

Of course if you accept the premise of the system it makes it less work to play within it. Of course there are work arounds with even the most disparate of capability levels, but there are games which make it easier for players to assert an equality of character capability and games which make it harder.

I accept that in roleplaying games some platonic ideal of balance of character capability is not achieveable, but I don't accept that it has no value as a concept for game design. From a GMs point of view, it's something I take into account when choosing games and running them. It also influences what I want to play as well.
 

arjunstc

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Well, I'm out - you guys are obviously looking to discuss this at a more serious level than I supposed.

Anyway, I think a lot of people mean "niche protection" when they say "balance", and even if they don't, niche protection is what will give them the "balance" they want, because at the end of the day, what they want is a game where everyone feels like they can and have contributed to solving the problems presented.

And rules can make it harder to do that, and of course the situations which the GM present the player characters can facilitate that or make it harder.

Added: At the end of the day, when I GM, the question is not so much whether the rules are "balanced", and whether the scenario or encounter I presented to my players is "balanced" - it's about whether they are having fun, and how I can try to do things so that they can. If I feel they are, I keep them; if they are not, I change them.
 
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zanshin

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Just to clarify arjunstc , I am not liking you leaving the thread, I am liking the approach you set out in your post.
 

Black Leaf

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A lot of what aiming for mechanical balance does is remove natural points of balance, by looking at things through an artificially narrowed lens.

Take rapiers vs pole-arms. In the real world a Pole-arm was better than a rapier just about every time. Yet. People trained with rapiers extensively. The superiority of a pole-arm was balanced around the fact that it wasn't really practical to carry one around everywhere.

Yet games tend to create this ridiculous false balance where they ignore circumstances and insist a lightly armoured rapier guy and a pole-arm weilder in plate need to be balanced against each other in the abstract, so they are equally effective within the same combat (And it means that if you actually apply practical constraints to the pole-arm guy it starts to feel like you are unfairly punishing his character).

The issue is the kind of balance. In a way the historical weapons were already balanced, as evidenced by the fact they were used during the same historical period. (We're not talking about a longbow vs an M16).
That partly depends on what you're aiming for I think.

If it's a serious attempt at simulating combat, then yeah, a Pole-arm should be superior outside of cramped conditions and social constraints.

But if it's a game of swashbuckling adventure, you actually do want the rapier to be better even when it wouldn't have been in the real world. In the same way you want jumping through windows and swinging from chandeliers to be a more viable tactic than reality would enforce.
 

David Johansen

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My own thought on game balance is related to playing with my junior high friends. The guy DMing had all the books, the adventures, the miniatures and hadn't really read them and mostly made up the rules. So, my one friend was 14th level and had a riding dragon and two dozen magic items and I was a first level gnome because the DM killed my character at least once per session. It's probably why I'm so obsessed about having solid details on the character sheet and see the rules as the social contract.

Anyhow, at no point should any player feel like someone else is completely dominating play and getting all the goodies. This is the problem with net-running rules in cyberpunk.

In AD&D Gary Gygax talks about balance constantly and yet creates a game that unbalanced every step of the way. Yet, I don't think we can really call AD&D a failure. It would be a bit like comparing an antelope femur to a rotary machine gun. We know more about roleplaying games now. I still like AD&D, its quirks and oddities give it a tremendous sense of character and flavour and texture that more recent versions simply lack.

Palladium games heard about game balance but Kevin obviously thought that meant books that are thick enough to balance a wobbly table. And yet, his games have a charm and enthusiasm that's hard to beat. I wish he'd apply the megaversal system to something like Smurfs or My Little Pony some day, it would be hilarious.

But returning to my original point. The rules can't fix the DM.
 

RandallS

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My own thought on game balance is related to playing with my junior high friends. The guy DMing had all the books, the adventures, the miniatures and hadn't really read them and mostly made up the rules. So, my one friend was 14th level and had a riding dragon and two dozen magic items and I was a first level gnome because the DM killed my character at least once per session. It's probably why I'm so obsessed about having solid details on the character sheet and see the rules as the social contract.
I guess I was lucky in a way. I was 17 in 1974 when D&D was first published. By the time I got a copy (the brown box and the Greyhawk supplement), it was spring 1975. I didn't get to actually play it until late that summer. By that time I was 18 and was headed to college where I played it a lot. Therefore, I never experienced the teen GM. The worst GM I had in college was a guy who was obsessed with monofilament wire (walk through a door and get sliced to pieces), but he was running a really gonzo T&T game to begin with so it was a fun time killer to see how many times your series of characters could get killed, maimed or otherwise screwed over in a single afternoon of play. It probably also helped that I had been playing wargames (Avalon Hill, SPI, and the occasional minis game) since I was a freshmen in high school.
 

robiswrong

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My own thought on game balance is related to playing with my junior high friends. The guy DMing had all the books, the adventures, the miniatures and hadn't really read them and mostly made up the rules. So, my one friend was 14th level and had a riding dragon and two dozen magic items and I was a first level gnome because the DM killed my character at least once per session. It's probably why I'm so obsessed about having solid details on the character sheet and see the rules as the social contract.

Anyhow, at no point should any player feel like someone else is completely dominating play and getting all the goodies. This is the problem with net-running rules in cyberpunk.

In AD&D Gary Gygax talks about balance constantly and yet creates a game that unbalanced every step of the way. Yet, I don't think we can really call AD&D a failure. It would be a bit like comparing an antelope femur to a rotary machine gun. We know more about roleplaying games now. I still like AD&D, its quirks and oddities give it a tremendous sense of character and flavour and texture that more recent versions simply lack.

Palladium games heard about game balance but Kevin obviously thought that meant books that are thick enough to balance a wobbly table. And yet, his games have a charm and enthusiasm that's hard to beat. I wish he'd apply the megaversal system to something like Smurfs or My Little Pony some day, it would be hilarious.

But returning to my original point. The rules can't fix the DM.
I actually don't think that AD&D is as "unbalanced" as people think. I do think it's "balanced" around open-table play, random stats, and moderately high death rates.

So, like, your first level magic-user may suck, and then 10th level magic-user is practically a god. In a "one true party" setup, this is just crappy all over the place.

In an open table, it matters less. Sure, you may be more powerful one week, but you might be playing the weaker character the next. And with the lethality of it all, and the ability to choose your challenges, having more firepower means you have a chance at better loot.

But AD&D is super "unbalanced" for a "one true party going through the adventures the DM puts in front of them" kind of play.
 

ffilz

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I guess I was lucky in a way. I was 17 in 1974 when D&D was first published. By the time I got a copy (the brown box and the Greyhawk supplement), it was spring 1975. I didn't get to actually play it until late that summer. By that time I was 18 and was headed to college where I played it a lot. Therefore, I never experienced the teen GM. The worst GM I had in college was a guy who was obsessed with monofilament wire (walk through a door and get sliced to pieces), but he was running a really gonzo T&T game to begin with so it was a fun time killer to see how many times your series of characters could get killed, maimed or otherwise screwed over in a single afternoon of play. It probably also helped that I had been playing wargames (Avalon Hill, SPI, and the occasional minis game) since I was a freshmen in high school.
Monofilament wire... I wonder how prevalent that was... Where did you go to college? I gamed at MIT (as a teen - their club was open to non-students including teens) and there was a guy in 1979 who we called Shigawire Morgan for his monofilament wire traps. But he didn't last very long because people got tired of it. I think the next week he tried to find someone to co-GM with him, but no on bit and he disappeared.

Balance is definitely a tricky term because it's almost impossible to make a game perfectly balanced. What can be done is:

* Make sure that the campaign you run makes it possible for the diversity of characters and players to feel like they can contribute. There are ways to handle this that allow extreme "power" differential.

* Make sure the game runs with some degree of consistency and logic that can be understood from the perspective of reality, genre conventions, or setting conceits. This assures that player choices are meaningful which makes handling character diversity easier.

* Consider whether you expect the player group to "welcome all with open arms" or apply some kind of logic to how the multiple PCs interact and form a "party" if that is part of your campaign style.

The last is an interesting one. I have dealt with players who tried to bring in PCs that weren't going to fit the group. Now in some games, trying to make sense of a group of characters who don't seem to mesh can be fun. In the games I run though, I expect the players to form a party (this goes to Rob Conley's caveat on a Sandbox that there is a constraint on how much a GM can process, while there may be some GMs who relish running multiple independent PCs, I have one 2 hour session a week, alternating between two games, so every other week, the PCs need to be a party). Some examples of clashes:

* The Traveller (ish - by the time of this instance, players got an array of skill levels to apply to their choice of skills), group has a number of established Pilots. New player wants to play a Pilot. Why is the established group going to profit share with someone who is going to buck for a Pilot slot among those already on board?

* AD&D campaign where a player had a Druid who thought Undead were just part of the natural order. I don't remember if the other players disinvited the guy or he wandered off on his own.

* Cold Iron campaign in Harn where one player keyed into "everyone is playing evil clerics" (the way I implemented the Harn deities in Cold Iron made Agrik one of the more interesting Clerics to play) so decided to follow Morgath and showed up with a character with a pet ghoul. Well, the rest of the group wasn't ready for that, and they immediately attacked the new PC and his ghoul. I definitely didn't do enough as GM to dissuade the player from playing a Morgath Cleric, but I also remember the player being pretty persistent, and then he was very in the face about his pet ghoul...

Now I don't know what is going to happen in my RuneQuest campaign where one PC is an Aldryami Elf Rune Priest (very soon to become Rune Lord) while everyone else is no where near that kind of power level (this happened because I had forgotten about WHY I had removed elves from being a PC option - they have really good stats, and with near perfect rolls (done on Roll20 so no cheating), rolling a Rich Noble background, and doing well with previous experience left the PC REALLY REALLY good. The answer really is that to remain in good standing, really he's going to be called to aid elves in things that will be of little interest to the other PCs, and maybe even asked not to bring them along. But it's a bit of a tough bind, but at some point, the setting has to be played otherwise the campaign is meaningless.

Now a mechanical "balance" issue I'm working on. The way different weapons are written up in Cold Iron and the way we've played in the past, maces were never very appealing. Now we can argue about the realism of various weapons and armor and which things were concurrent in history, but ignoring that, if we just go with "generic D&D fantasy" maces should at least be a reasonably viable weapon. I'm proposing and need to do more analysis of a rule change to make them more viable. They will be better than a sword against plate (and chitin) and worse otherwise, but not a huge swing. I think that could work to make them desirable, though I haven't the foggiest idea how realistic any of that is.
 

ffilz

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I actually don't think that AD&D is as "unbalanced" as people think. I do think it's "balanced" around open-table play, random stats, and moderately high death rates.

So, like, your first level magic-user may suck, and then 10th level magic-user is practically a god. In a "one true party" setup, this is just crappy all over the place.

In an open table, it matters less. Sure, you may be more powerful one week, but you might be playing the weaker character the next. And with the lethality of it all, and the ability to choose your challenges, having more firepower means you have a chance at better loot.

But AD&D is super "unbalanced" for a "one true party going through the adventures the DM puts in front of them" kind of play.
I think I disagree with this last. My high school AD&D campaign WAS open table in that players could come and go, but at least the final year featured a core party and it was pretty much module of the week. The 4 core players seemed to all be able to reasonably equally contribute. I don't remember all the characters, I know there was a fighter and a ranger. But players who dropped in had to present a character that was roughly comparable to the other PCs.
 

robertsconley

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It sounds like he's agreeing with you, and yet you're arguing some point. I'm not sure what's happening.
I read it wrong or conflated it something else. I was tired yesterday. Appreciate pointing out. So I am good with hawkeyefan hawkeyefan 's response.

Your position is too absolutist. Good mechanics and a narrowing of the impact of system mastery make it easier for balance to be achieved between characters and therefore giving greater opportunity for players.

Of course if you accept the premise of the system it makes it less work to play within it. Of course there are work arounds with even the most disparate of capability levels, but there are games which make it easier for players to assert an equality of character capability and games which make it harder.
I am hardline on the issue of balance. Folks are not puppets with their strings being pulled by some game author through the mechanics of the game. It part of my overall opinion that RPGs campaign work best when you define the setting and initial situation first and then assemble the rules you are going to use second.

If one doesn't do that then they are just accepting the setting (implied or explicit) of the mechanics 'as is'. Which is fine if that what they intend to do. If one wants balance, however it is defined, then make sure the setting depicts the kind of balance one is looking for. Then find a set of rules that best works with that idea. Implied that statement is that there are going to be systems that fit one's idea of balance a lot easier than other system.


I accept that in roleplaying games some platonic ideal of balance of character capability is not achievable, but I don't accept that it has no value as a concept for game design. From a GMs point of view, it's something I take into account when choosing games and running them. It also influences what I want to play as well.
My counterpoint is that a better way to design is to define what the setting or genre is about and design a system to fit that. If clearly written it far easier for the average hobbyist to judge a system on that basis. For example I clearly spell out why Elves are mechanically better than nearly every other race in my Majestic Fantasy RPG. I also explain why my campaign don't result in everybody playing just elves. If I ever write another RPG, I would approach it the same way. Define what it about in terms of setting or genre and occasionally pepper my text with commentary that ties back a section to the premise. I believe strongly I should not leave the reader in the dark as to why I am writing in the way I am writing. As long as I can write it tersely and clearly.

From a GMs point of view, it's something I take into account when choosing games and running them. It also influences what I want to play as well.
So how do you define balance? What are the criteria and factors you are weighing? Players being in the limelight? Equal capability achieved by different paths? Each element is properly costed as to their relative impact on the campaign? While there no wrong answer here would not it better if the designer just spells out what they shooting for and then occasionally explain how X ties back to that. Enough to make you go "OK I see their point." Wouldn't that be a better approach to see if that system (or book) is worth your hobby time?
 

David Johansen

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To be fair, Hawkeye spent most of the seventies complaining about being under powered.

I do know this one guy who can build a useless character in any system. I know another guy who builds totally twinked out characters but never does anything useful in game because he's too scared his character might get hurt.

You can have a perfectly balanced system where everyone gets "Everything" at +20 on 1d20 with a target number of 1+ and player characters cannot be harmed in any way by action or inaction and you'll still have one player who dominates and another who can't accomplish anything because the rules can't balance the abilities of the players or the inherent biases of the DM.

As for the junior high DM, the other players strongly preferred his gonzo action adventures to my structured, by the book, dungeons. I learned a lot about DMing from him but he also inspired many of my more rigid biases.
 
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Brock Savage

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I know another guy who builds totally twinked out characters but never does anything useful in game because he's too scared his character might get hurt.
I call this kind of player the "two-fisted coward" and find it incredibly annoying. In theater of the mind scenarios, the two-fisted coward will try to game positioning to be always front and center when something interesting is happening yet simultaneously distant from any danger.
 

Brock Savage

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Ugh I call that "turtling".

I'm a brave adventurer and nothing can harm me! Oh, wait I'm down to 12 hit points? RUN RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!!
The playstyle I am talking about is actually much worse than that; they get stressed out when they lose any hit points or suffer setbacks. It's an extremely conservative, risk-averse flavor of min-maxer that manages to be both annoying and boring.
 

Stevethulhu

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The playstyle I am talking about is actually much worse than that; they get stressed out when they lose any hit points or suffer setbacks. It's an extremely conservative, risk-averse flavor of min-maxer that manages to be both annoying and boring.
I knew a player like that. I gave up when he refused point blank to go into the haunted house in the CoC scenario of the same name.

It was our first session and he really wanted to play. But refused to do anything that might reduce a number on his sheet.
 
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hawkeyefan

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The playstyle I am talking about is actually much worse than that; they get stressed out when they lose any hit points or suffer setbacks. It's an extremely conservative, risk-averse flavor of min-maxer that manages to be both annoying and boring.

Oh, right....the player who wants the "flawless victory". Yeah, that's unbearable.
 
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