Balance and Difference

There are so many threads and posts about balance that it seems worthy of its own thread. Maybe that will stop us from having this conversation in dozens of places.

I don't want to speak for any group, but I'm pretty sure that most of us who advocate balance in DDN are using the term in a way that isn't what some others may think. When I talk about a balanced game, I mean the following:

1) No class is strictly better than another. For example, the fighter is strictly better than the warrior in 3E, in a very straightforward way. The fighter has better hit points and feats and the warrior has nothing the fighter doesn't have (which is why warrior is an NPC class). Other classes may be less obviously better/worse in this regard. For example, it's hard to come up with a way the sorceror can be superior to the wizard without getting into edge case stuff like needing to spam a spell the sorceror happens to know but the wizard didn't prepare enough times. Much more often though, the greater variety of spells, the bonus feats, and the faster acquisition of higher spell levels make the wizard strictly better, but there is some room for debate (not that I want that debate here - this is an example not a thesis).

2) No class is able to excel in more phases of the game than others. This is meant broadly. I don't care at all if clerics can't open locks well or bards can't be the best greatsword wielders. If a class has abundant tools for certain broad types of encounters (like "social encounters") while another is likely to be minimally involved or ineffectual barring DM heavy-handedness, that's an imbalance in the game mechanics.

3) No class has all the plot power. Getting tricky now! If one class is built to dramatically change situations through clever choices and another is built to plod along in a useful but monotonous fashion, that's another imbalance. For example, the "healbot" cleric concept is what I would call useful but monotonous. Before cleric spells became so varied in 3E and damage prevention (i.e. killing/neutralizing the other guy first) became so much better than in-combat healing in most cases, some clerics simply cast a healing spell (or condition-removal spell) on whoever needed it every round. This is a vital role, but not an interesting one. Compared to a class that has less obvious decisions, the healbot's job seems unenviable. Sure, he has some resource management to do, but it doesn't take much work to get that right. In other words, "balance" can also mean opportunities to make non-trivial and non-obvious choices that influence the outcome of an encounter about as often as everyone else does.

Balance isn't sameness though. I don't think anyone wants to see essentially the same tools in every class's hands. I don't think anyone is saying that every PC should contribute equally to every actual encounter (as opposed to every broad type of encounter). What am I missing here though - what are elements of balance that I overlooked or mischaracterized?

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

Tl;dr version:  It is possible to have PARITY without having SYMMETRY. Yell

I have nothing more to contribute. Tongue Out 
I agree, but I would have described 2 differently, mostly to push the game a little in an area it has yet to be balanced.

2)  Every character should be able to contribute equally to each "pillar" (combat, social, exploration).  This is not to say that every character should contribute equally to each encounter: a rogue is going to contribute more to an encounter with a trap that needs to be disarmed, a fighter to an encounter where you need someone to leap over a chasm, a druid to one where you need to survive in the wild.  It means that, over the course of a few levels, everyone gets equal spotlight time in each pillar, everyone gets a moment when they can do something no one else can do as well.
i hope they go "how does this class handle these situations?" instead of "which classes should be good at this situation?"

every character should be able to help in any situation. while their contribution might not be the same, but you shouldn't be in a situation where "whelp, we don't got a rogue. time to sit on our thumbs until the lock rusts" is the only possible outcome. "we don't have a healer/skillmonkey/fishmonger, guess we can't continue" simply should not pop up in a discussion, be it about an in-game event or adventure design.
The post says that no class should be able to excel in MORE phases (pillars) than any other. It did not say that each class is as good at THE SAME pillars as every other. It works for fantasy and for 'balanced' mechanics for some classes to be better in different (paratied) ways. It is NOT balanced, according to the post, for the Fighter's "I'ma punch the door down" to be the same as the Rogues "lockpick". Characters with skills should serve a purpose, but that is for another post. I think the system that the devs have talked about solves a majority of the problems. For comedy's sake I will provide what I hope, and what I think, will be the case.

DM: You come across a Locked Door.
Fighter: I want to break the door down with my Strength.
Wizard: I want to use my Intellect and examine the lock, then tell the Ranger how to disable it.
Ranger: I want to disable the lock with my Dex.
Cleric: I... well, I want to use my Cha to motivate my group... and ready my shield/weapon.
Rogue: I want to pick the lock, using my lockpick skill that I got from selecting my theme or background.
DM: Uhh... roll initiative. Whoever wins gets to the door first.


Thus each class can do something in this situation (bad example for the Cleric, but I'm sure you get the point) and if you did not have a skillmonkey you could quite easily get through the door. This example does not deal with Combat or Social pillars, but following this line of thought gets us on the right track... I hope.
It's also important to differentiate between class and character when we talk balance. I don't care if *a* fighter doesn't really excel in social encounters as long as he can contribute sometimes and the player made the choice. I do care if fighters *period* can't bring a lot to social encounters, or if doing so has a ridiculous cost (like dumping Con to pump up Cha or something).

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

1) No class is strictly better than another.

I think this actually sets the bar a little low.  Take the Fighter & Warrior example.  The fighter is strictly superior.  What if we gave the warrior Wilderness Lore, Sense Motive, and 4 skill points instead of 2?  The fighter is no longer strictly superior, but the Warrior isn't suddenly a balanced PC class.  

2) No class is able to excel in more phases of the game than others. 

The next question becomes how many phases.  If there are three phases (the three pillars), and characters can each excel in two of them, that's very different than if they each excel in one, or are all capable in all three.  

3) No class has all the plot power. Getting tricky now! If one class is built to dramatically change situations through clever choices and another is built to plod along in a useful but monotonous fashion, that's another imbalance.

That is a subtler one, but still important.  

Balance isn't sameness though.

Sameness is another form (or symptom) of imbalance.  If you break the tennets of balance above, for instance, and have one class that is strictly superior to all others, has all the 'plot power,' and excels in all phases of the game, why would anyone play anything else?  Once everyone has figured out that there's only one worthwhile class, only that class is played:  sameness.  It doesn't matter what 'unique mechanics' you give the inferior classes - they're inferior, there's no reason to play them beyond ignorance or masochism.

What am I missing here though - what are elements of balance that I overlooked or mischaracterized?

One of the best definitions of balance I've heard is that for every decision point there are plenty of meaningful, viable choices.    You're talking about classes, above, but class is only one decision point.  Race is another example - so are skills, feats, weapons, implements, exploits, spells, and so forth.

In D&D, class has always been a major choice that opens up other choices, making balancing classes extremely difficult (I won't say impossible, but it was never achieved in a stable manner).  4e finally balanced the classes by giving each class basically the same decission points:  build, powers, skills feats.  Of course, it really only balanced them in the one pillar, 'combat.'  Combat has always been a major focus of the D&D rules - most RPG rule sets, really.  It's not that combat is always a major focus of the game, it's just one that cries out for a lot of detailed resolution mechanics.  4e dropped the ball on the other two pillars (which, like roles and sources, have always been there, just never been given formal names before).   

If Wizards were out to make a better game instead of a better marketing strategy, they might do well to retain the advances 4e made in class balance in combat and extend them to the other two pillars.


 

 

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It's also important to differentiate between class and character when we talk balance. I don't care if *a* fighter doesn't really excel in social encounters as long as he can contribute sometimes and the player made the choice. I do care if fighters *period* can't bring a lot to social encounters, or if doing so has a ridiculous cost (like dumping Con to pump up Cha or something).



An excellent point.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Good points, T_V!

Typing your initials like that sort of looks like a guy crying with a patch over one eye, btw. Just sayin'.

1) No class is strictly better than another.

I think this actually sets the bar a little low.  Take the Fighter & Warrior example.  The fighter is strictly superior.  What if we gave the warrior Wilderness Lore, Sense Motive, and 4 skill points instead of 2?  The fighter is no longer strictly superior, but the Warrior isn't suddenly a balanced PC class.

Well, the warrior is better in that case, but not caught up. He still sucks at combat and is unlikely to have the ability scores to support much skill use unless he wants to suck even more. In the new context we'd compare the warrior to the ranger and say it's still strictly inferior to something. I actually believe that plenty of previous edition classes are strictly better than others, but I wanted to stick to tame examples here. Someone out there would probably argue that the sorceror is as good as the wizard, so I don't want to invite more controversy by comparing the paladin and the druid or something like that.

2) No class is able to excel in more phases of the game than others. 

The next question becomes how many phases.  If there are three phases (the three pillars), and characters can each excel in two of them, that's very different than if they each excel in one, or are all capable in all three.


I tried to say this a little better in my second post here. It's cool if my particular wizard is useful but not great in social encounters. Maybe I'm weak in both Wis and Cha and therefore all skills that derive from those. I have some social resources that see use but not as many or as strong as what the paladin in my party has. Not an inherent flaw in the game IMO, as long as I had the option to invest in social stuff and be more valuable.

On the other hand, there's some bad imbalance if I can be great in social encounters and exploration and combat without the same investment someone else made. That leads to your "may as well all be THAT class" idea.
 
I'm not arguing for hyperspecialization here, btw, but obviously some builds and classes are going to be better at one thing or another. If I make a bard and a wizard with the same backgrounds and themes, the bard will be the better socializer by virtue of his main ability, even if the wizard cares about Cha to some extent. Overall I think it makes sense for all characters to excel in 2 of 3 pillars, with "excel" probably up for debate.

3) No class has all the plot power. Getting tricky now! If one class is built to dramatically change situations through clever choices and another is built to plod along in a useful but monotonous fashion, that's another imbalance.

That is a subtler one, but still important.  

Balance isn't sameness though.

Sameness is another form (or symptom) of imbalance.  If you break the tennets of balance above, for instance, and have one class that is strictly superior to all others, has all the 'plot power,' and excels in all phases of the game, why would anyone play anything else?  Once everyone has figured out that there's only one worthwhile class, only that class is played:  sameness.  It doesn't matter what 'unique mechanics' you give the inferior classes - they're inferior, there's no reason to play them beyond ignorance or masochism.

What am I missing here though - what are elements of balance that I overlooked or mischaracterized?

One of the best definitions of balance I've heard is that for every decision point there are plenty of meaningful, viable choices.    You're talking about classes, above, but class is only one decision point.  Race is another example - so are skills, feats, weapons, implements, exploits, spells, and so forth.



Right on about the other decision points. I think class is the main one, since that's the heart of most archetypes. But if there is a bias (like treasure tables full of magical long swords or goofy orb wizard lockdowns or whatever) then that shuts down some options as well. The game loses something when things converge on an optimum.

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

T rovide what I hope, and what I think, will be the case.

DM: You come across a Locked Door.
Fighter: I want to break the door down with my Strength.
Wizard: I want to use my Intellect and examine the lock, then tell the Ranger how to disable it.
Ranger: I want to disable the lock with my Dex.
Cleric: I... well, I want to use my Cha to motivate my group... and ready my shield/weapon.
Rogue: I want to pick the lock, using my lockpick skill that I got from selecting my theme or background.
DM: Uhh... roll initiative. Whoever wins gets to the door first.


Thus each class can do something in this situation (bad example for the Cleric, but I'm sure you get the point) and if you did not have a skillmonkey you could quite easily get through the door. This example does not deal with Combat or Social pillars, but following this line of thought gets us on the right track... I hope.



Cleric took the feat called.. Invocations of Freedom and Justice, and cries at the top of his lungs justice will not be denied... and the lock shivers splits. See this blog.

  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

Well quite honestly the biggest wild card in this whole balance thing is magic. If a caster has the right spells for the right situation they would excel regardless of which pillar it is but that is subject to a high level of variance as they will not always know what spells they need to have prepared. I guess another aspect that should be looked at is limited vs. consistent aptitude. Sure a Wizard could cast friends or a cleric could cast detect lies in a social situation but that resource is limited and possesses an opportunity cost (not memorizing sleep) where a Bard with lots of skill in diplomacy or a Paladin with a high sense motive would consistently do well without giving up potential in another area. That is tricky to balance out.

Well quite honestly the biggest wild card in this whole balance thing is magic. If a caster has the right spells for the right situation they would excel regardless of which pillar it is but that is subject to a high level of variance as they will not always know what spells they need to have prepared. I guess another aspect that should be looked at is limited vs. consistent aptitude. Sure a Wizard could cast friends or a cleric could cast detect lies in a social situation but that resource is limited and possesses an opportunity cost (not memorizing sleep) where a Bard with lots of skill in diplomacy or a Paladin with a high sense motive would consistently do well without giving up potential in another area. That is tricky to balance out.


Training a skill for Diplomacy or Sense Motive is an opportunity cost.  Indeed, it's a much higher one than not memorizing sleep.  If you don't memorize Sleep, your cost is one spell slot for one day, but skills last much longer than that, and most characters get less of them.
Seriously, though, you should check out the PbP Haven. You might also like Real Adventures, IF you're cool.
Knights of W.T.F.- Silver Spur Winner
4enclave, a place where 4e fans can talk 4e in peace.

While I agree in principal, unless the event is occurring during the training I would consider the skill training a sunk cost. Either way there is still the issue of sporadic vs. consistent levels of skill and the complexities of valuing them.

Training a skill for Diplomacy or Sense Motive



There's two "skills" I'd like to see dropped from D&D.
While I agree in principal, unless the event is occurring during the training I would consider the skill training a sunk cost. Either way there is still the issue of sporadic vs. consistent levels of skill and the complexities of valuing them.


Doesn't that just make it worse for the skills?  I mean, I can prepare Charm Person knowing I am going to at least be in town today, but when I train Diplomacy, I have to hope I'll get enough chances to use it to make it worth the cost.
Seriously, though, you should check out the PbP Haven. You might also like Real Adventures, IF you're cool.
Knights of W.T.F.- Silver Spur Winner
4enclave, a place where 4e fans can talk 4e in peace.

Well quite honestly the biggest wild card in this whole balance thing is magic. If a caster has the right spells for the right situation they would excel regardless of which pillar it is but that is subject to a high level of variance as they will not always know what spells they need to have prepared. I guess another aspect that should be looked at is limited vs. consistent aptitude. Sure a Wizard could cast friends or a cleric could cast detect lies in a social situation but that resource is limited and possesses an opportunity cost (not memorizing sleep) where a Bard with lots of skill in diplomacy or a Paladin with a high sense motive would consistently do well without giving up potential in another area. That is tricky to balance out.



That assumes a lot about the way spells work. If spells go back to being automatic successes, then yes, they are pretty big wild cards. If Friends is a bonus on some Cha checks and Detect Lies is a bonus on some Wis checks, then they are still valuable (bonuses are good) but not drastically more so than skills.

This is a big part of what I mean when I talk about "plot power." Suppose you have two healing classes. One restores a few hit points every round with a passive aura. Great! Keep him around. Another restores hit points in very large amounts a few times per day. Neither is terribly exciting, but one clearly has more "plot power" than the other. When things are looking dark, he can turn the battle around. That big heal is a turning point when you know the bad guy can't win anymore. Even if the aura guy's overall numbers are bigger, he doesn't seem to matter. No one is in a big hurry to play aura guy, because he may as well be a pet or an NPC or a magic item.

If spells are able to substitute for skills, the balanced approach is to make them somehow inferior, or else the game starts to focus on how and when to use the magical resources that some PCs have. Let the mundane characters handle routine challenges and save the magic for when it really counts! But that model tells everyone to play a caster - then the group gets more of the best resource.

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

Training a skill for Diplomacy or Sense Motive



There's two "skills" I'd like to see dropped from D&D.



Well, Sense Motive can easily fall under Insight(assumign 4e's method of skills), while Diplomacy I don't see why it should need to be removed....unless you were reffering to neither of the skills listed.
Training a skill for Diplomacy or Sense Motive



There's two "skills" I'd like to see dropped from D&D.


I wouldn't.
Seriously, though, you should check out the PbP Haven. You might also like Real Adventures, IF you're cool.
Knights of W.T.F.- Silver Spur Winner
4enclave, a place where 4e fans can talk 4e in peace.
Sense Motive can be right up there with those dreadful detect evil type spells etc.
Sense Motive can be right up there with those dreadful detect evil type spells etc.



diplomacy = charisma application

sense motive or insight (its 4e analog) = wisdom application...

 That is there 5e incarnation so we remove those stats? or any non magical application so they dont do anything ... because they simply must be dump stats?
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

1) the difference between sense motive/insight and detect evil is that one is a skill check opposed by the target's skill and circumstances, the other is a magical effect that can only be opposed by magic.  The former doesn't ruin plot lines, because the DM can say that doppelganger disguised as the king has a really high bluff or that spy disguised as a prisoner has a huge circumstance bonus for the fact that he's in chains, and he can say you haven't spent enough time with him to get any indications he's not what he appears to be, and ultimately he can say you automatically or nearly automatically fail.  When the paladin is spamming detect evil, on the other hand, the only way the DM can stop him from ruining that plot line is by having some kind of magical illusion that leads "detect evil" astray, which is a) unlikely in many circumstances and b) vulenerable to a detect magic spell.  In short, they do not possess remotely equivalent plot killing power, and it's NICE to be able to build a human lie detector.

2)  If I were building 5e, you would not in fact be choosing between sleep and friends.  Separate pols for the three pillars whenever possible!  But nobody's listening to me, so let's assume you are.  If "wizard prepped the right spell today" = "we win," then we're back to wizards being the only class worth playing, yes.  This is true regardless of how all the other classes are balanced, as there's a very limited extent to which consistency can trump automatic success + versatility.  Emwasick is right that friends and related non-combat spells are much more easily balanced as bonuses rather than automatic successes.

3) Again, I would argue that everyone should have as much to contribute to each pillar as everyone else, not have one or even two pillars they specialize in, because then they end up sidelined when the remaining ones come up.  This is again not to say that each should have as much to contribute to each challenge in each pillar.  If a door is locked, the rogue should absolutely be the go-to guy.  The fighter could bust it open, sure, but that would be harder and make noise; the ranger has enough dex to try, but he won't be as good as a rogue; the cleric or the wizard could give someone else a useful bonus by casting bull strength/cat's grace or giving a lecture on how locks work; but this is the rogue's moment to shine.  But the next obstacle should be a stuck door that is the fighter's moment to shine, and the one after that should be a magically warded door that is the wizard's moment to shine.  Not just every class but every character should have at least one thing in each pillar that they can do better than anyone else, and that thing should come up with at least similar frequency to the thing everyone else at the table can do better than anyone else (DMs can help this along in adventure design, knowing what's in their party).  
While I agree in principal, unless the event is occurring during the training I would consider the skill training a sunk cost. Either way there is still the issue of sporadic vs. consistent levels of skill and the complexities of valuing them.


Doesn't that just make it worse for the skills?  I mean, I can prepare Charm Person knowing I am going to at least be in town today, but when I train Diplomacy, I have to hope I'll get enough chances to use it to make it worth the cost.




I am not sure if you are saying that it makes skills or spells over powered, but I would say that they are not that out of whack unless the caster is always able to have the right spell at the right time. If that is the case then the caster is way over powered and has no real opportunity cost. It would be like the caster just had those as static bonuses. What I am envisioning is where a caster may have a useful spell for a situation half the time or less. Typically in the games I play a caster would be the back up to a rouge or bard in many of these situations if they have the right spells on the ready. Now if casters do not have to prep spells then the bonuses would have to be fairly low as these would be in effect static bonuses. For the skilled person they would always be good in a situation related to that skill. An additional problem comes up with things that span multiple pillars. For example balance would let you cross a tightrope to cross a chasm but can also be used in combat in some situations like on a ship that is rocking in a storm.  That said not all skills are equal so this would be a problem where people would focus on only the best skills. My gut tells me that there is no perfect way to balance things and if they were balanced perfectly the game would be filled with quirky nonsense to increase or decrease the utility of a given skill or ability. Oh and player made wands of spell spaming need to bite the dust.

1) the difference between sense motive/insight and detect evil is that one is a skill check opposed by the target's skill and circumstances, the other is a magical effect that can only be opposed by magic.  The former doesn't ruin plot lines, because the DM can say that doppelganger disguised as the king has a really high bluff or that spy disguised as a prisoner has a huge circumstance bonus for the fact that he's in chains, and he can say you haven't spent enough time with him to get any indications he's not what he appears to be, and ultimately he can say you automatically or nearly automatically fail.  When the paladin is spamming detect evil, on the other hand, the only way the DM can stop him from ruining that plot line is by having some kind of magical illusion that leads "detect evil" astray, which is a) unlikely in many circumstances and b) vulenerable to a detect magic spell.  In short, they do not possess remotely equivalent plot killing power, and it's NICE to be able to build a human lie detector.


Sense motive or insight seems like a reasonable way to draw a line between player knowledge and character knowledge. If your DM is a terrible liar or you're way too trusting, this skill can help you play a different character. Sense motive could be used to notice some detail of an NPC's behavior that would otherwise go unnoticed. Maybe the duke looks the tiniest bit tense every time you mention the duchess, but you can't tell without a check. If this is one potential clue the DM wants to give out, how else can he make it an optional part of the narration except to call for a check?

2)  If I were building 5e, you would not in fact be choosing between sleep and friends.  Separate pols for the three pillars whenever possible!  But nobody's listening to me, so let's assume you are.  If "wizard prepped the right spell today" = "we win," then we're back to wizards being the only class worth playing, yes.  This is true regardless of how all the other classes are balanced, as there's a very limited extent to which consistency can trump automatic success + versatility.  Emwasick is right that friends and related non-combat spells are much more easily balanced as bonuses rather than automatic successes.


The one thing that made me sad at the PAX East panel was the revelation that wizards will go back to loading up on the best spell for each situation again. Jeremy Crawford said he'd like a wizard who could drop all his blast spells to load up on social spells. I guess those spells could be written as something other than win buttons this time, but either way I'm nervous that this heralds the return of the wizard with excellence in many roles.

3) Again, I would argue that everyone should have as much to contribute to each pillar as everyone else, not have one or even two pillars they specialize in, because then they end up sidelined when the remaining ones come up.  This is again not to say that each should have as much to contribute to each challenge in each pillar.  If a door is locked, the rogue should absolutely be the go-to guy.  The fighter could bust it open, sure, but that would be harder and make noise; the ranger has enough dex to try, but he won't be as good as a rogue; the cleric or the wizard could give someone else a useful bonus by casting bull strength/cat's grace or giving a lecture on how locks work; but this is the rogue's moment to shine.  But the next obstacle should be a stuck door that is the fighter's moment to shine, and the one after that should be a magically warded door that is the wizard's moment to shine.  Not just every class but every character should have at least one thing in each pillar that they can do better than anyone else, and that thing should come up with at least similar frequency to the thing everyone else at the table can do better than anyone else (DMs can help this along in adventure design, knowing what's in their party).  


I've been trying to come up with what I mean when I say a character "excels" in one pillar. I definitely don't want to go back to extreme specialization and taking turns being the star. So what I mean is more that if we have a decent number of encounters of one type, every character (not class) will likely make a pivotal decision in some number of them, but probably not all. Maybe my particular fighter does something to significantly shift 60% of combat encounters and 40% of social encounters. He always contributes in combat and usually contributes in social encounters even when he's not doing anything too special, so I'd say he excels in combat but maybe not in social encounters.

This is that nebulous "plot power" thing again - simply participating is cool and all sometimes, but participating beyond just having some dice to roll when your turn comes around is the real point for me.

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

I don't have a problem with sensory/exploratory options like sense motive. I believe in that instance it DOES give the player some insight into mannerisms and actions the DM may not be able to necessarily emulate. You have to be careful with that one. I would rather have it be detect dishonesty/lie/discomfort etc. and have the effects be somewhat nebulous.

You can tell the duke is hiding something, but you're not sure if he's genrally nervous, or constipated. Either way, your radar is up about this guy. (read: don't be a trusting fool)
"If it's not a conjuration, how did the wizard con·jure/ˈkänjər/Verb 1. Make (something) appear unexpectedly or seemingly from nowhere as if by magic. it?" -anon "Why don't you read fire·ball / fī(-ə)r-ˌbȯl/ and see if you can find the key word con.jure /'kən-ˈju̇r/ anywhere in it." -Maxperson

I've been trying to come up with what I mean when I say a character "excels" in one pillar. I definitely don't want to go back to extreme specialization and taking turns being the star. So what I mean is more that if we have a decent number of encounters of one type, every character (not class) will likely make a pivotal decision in some number of them, but probably not all. Maybe my particular fighter does something to significantly shift 60% of combat encounters and 40% of social encounters. He always contributes in combat and usually contributes in social encounters even when he's not doing anything too special, so I'd say he excels in combat but maybe not in social encounters.

This is that nebulous "plot power" thing again - simply participating is cool and all sometimes, but participating beyond just having some dice to roll when your turn comes around is the real point for me.



I'm having a hard time understanding what it is you mean too.  I think you're on to something, but I'm not entirely sure what kinds of "decisions" you mean.  To my mind, there's not much of a link between character resources and decisions.  If you've got a cool power/ability/spell/skill that is useful in this situation, it's not really a decision to use it because what's the alternative?  If you're talking about coming up with ideas, there's no reason your idea has to use only your character's resources, the fighter could convince the wizard that now would be a great time for use # 37 of tenser's floating disc.

The way I would describe plot power is the ability to affect the narrative.  If the rogue weren't here, we'd have to smash the door down, alerting the bad guys and changing what happens next in the story.  If the wizard hadn't prepped feather fall, the rogue would have fallen to her death just then, changing what happens next in the story.  If the fighter didn't have the ability to draw fire from the lich, the wizard wouldn't have been able to destroy the phylactery and the story would have had a very different ending.   On the other hand, everyone being good enough at diplomacy to say their piece before the king isn't affecting the narrative because at the end of the day your message is probably the same and the story continues on in the same direction it would have had someone else rolled the diplomacy check.  It's certainly more than "being able to roll dice without screwing the party," but I'm not sure it's about decisions either.  Maybe that's because my groups tend to make decisions as a group, rather than individually.
I'm having a hard time understanding what it is you mean too.  I think you're on to something, but I'm not entirely sure what kinds of "decisions" you mean.  To my mind, there's not much of a link between character resources and decisions.  If you've got a cool power/ability/spell/skill that is useful in this situation, it's not really a decision to use it because what's the alternative?  If you're talking about coming up with ideas, there's no reason your idea has to use only your character's resources, the fighter could convince the wizard that now would be a great time for use # 37 of tenser's floating disc.

The way I would describe plot power is the ability to affect the narrative.  If the rogue weren't here, we'd have to smash the door down, alerting the bad guys and changing what happens next in the story.  If the wizard hadn't prepped feather fall, the rogue would have fallen to her death just then, changing what happens next in the story.  If the fighter didn't have the ability to draw fire from the lich, the wizard wouldn't have been able to destroy the phylactery and the story would have had a very different ending.   On the other hand, everyone being good enough at diplomacy to say their piece before the king isn't affecting the narrative because at the end of the day your message is probably the same and the story continues on in the same direction it would have had someone else rolled the diplomacy check.  It's certainly more than "being able to roll dice without screwing the party," but I'm not sure it's about decisions either.  Maybe that's because my groups tend to make decisions as a group, rather than individually.


All your examples helped me get somewhere with this. If your character could be on autopilot and still have the same results (open all the locks, spam the heals, roll for hit + damage) then in a way you lack plot power. Sure, you're doing something, but it's all totally obvious stuff, with minimal potential for a bad decision. Sometimes that's fine - you're still contributing to the party.

But if you're not just a henchman, you should rise above that level in many encounters. Having chosen the "right" skill at character creation isn't the answer. Without resource expenditure, you're not really steering the plot. Suppose for a moment that a rogue could automatically succeed on a certain number of skill checks over the course of each adventure (not necessarily an idea I'd use or advocate - just a thought experiment). Suddenly we'd have a different sense of "good rogue" than just a guy with a high Dex and his skill points spent properly.

The guy playing the rogue would matter more - if he were absent and the fighter's player controlled him one week, the fighter would be nervous about playing the rogue properly. If he used his free successes too soon, the story would change when a big challenge came up. If he were too stingy, the party might miss out on treasure or have a worse time with a few encounters. The fighter's player wouldn't feel like he was simply rolling because the rogue's player wasn't there to do it himself.

While the same kind of thing can happen with random rolls, it won't feel the same. The dice moved the plot, not the character or the player. At most, the player could have nudged the dice from afar by maxing out Dex or choosing a different race or feats.

I may be using words in an awful way here when I call this "plot power." I feel though that part of balance is having decisions in the course of play (not just at character creation or level up) that nudge the story this way or that.

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

I am not sure if you are saying that it makes skills or spells over powered, but I would say that they are not that out of whack unless the caster is always able to have the right spell at the right time. If that is the case then the caster is way over powered and has no real opportunity cost. It would be like the caster just had those as static bonuses. What I am envisioning is where a caster may have a useful spell for a situation half the time or less.


I mean it makes spells overpowered.  The caster might not have the right spell every time, but half the time is a pretty lowball estimate.  The versatility of being able to choose different spells each day is pretty big.  

Let's say, for example, that you and I are both in parallel campaigns.  I decide to handle social stuff with my Diplomacy Spell.  You decide to train the Diplomacy Skill.  For the first two weeks, we're in a big town.  Knowing that, I prepare Diplomacy every day.  So, in town, we're both getting equal mileage out of our choices.  Then the needs of the campaign take us out of town.  We gear up to cross the Burny Desert of Scorpions, which will take two weeks.  Each day of these two weeks, I forego preparing Diplomacy and instead prep a spell that helps us survive the harsh desert.  You, on the other hand, are stuck with your Diplomacy Skill.  It's useless here, and you can't trade it for something useful.  Now say one of the days we find an old hermit living alone in the middle of nowhere.  I'm out of luck because I didn't prep Diplomacy this morning, but your skill is there for you.  So, you win that one time, in that your choice was more valuable.  However, for the other thirteen days of the trip, I win,  because I was able to use that resource for something else of value.  Heck, that one day might even count as a toss up, because the reason I didn't have Diplomacy prepared was to prepare something else, which may have still been useful.

You seem to be focusing on that one day where I don't have the answer, but I'm focusing on the other thirteen where I did, and on that even though I didn't have the answer for the hermit, I had something else instead.



My gut tells me that there is no perfect way to balance things and if they were balanced perfectly the game would be filled with quirky nonsense to increase or decrease the utility of a given skill or ability.


You're right.  Perfect balance is not really attainable.  However, balance isn't a black or white situation, and I think it is important to strive for it.

Oh and player made wands of spell spaming need to bite the dust.


I agree completely.  4e got rid of them, but we'll see if they're still gone from 5e.
Seriously, though, you should check out the PbP Haven. You might also like Real Adventures, IF you're cool.
Knights of W.T.F.- Silver Spur Winner
4enclave, a place where 4e fans can talk 4e in peace.
I think I'm getting you now.  Essentially you want every class to have the same opportunities for player skill to push you over the top.  In 4e, an optimized character played by monkeys could trounce encounters that a poorly built character played by Sun Tzu would struggle with, so charop overshadowed smart play.  In 3.5, unless you were a wizard, there were relatively few tactical options that would have any effect - fighters would spam either basic attacks or improved trip or whatever their "best" option was.  Of course, decisions like when to advance/retreat, when to sneak in the back/bust in the front, whether to go right or left, those are A) group decisions, and B) relevant in any ruleset.  There's also tactical decision making (setting up flanks, using terrain, etc), but frankly that's not really character/class specific.  You seem to want in-game resource management - prepping the right powers for today and using them at the right time - that provides opportunity for in game decisions to make the difference between success and failure at a given task.  Is that right?

Assuming it is, I have a few responses.  First, the designers disagree with you.  They tried it with 4e, and dropped it with essentials when they realized that some players don't want to have to think about how to play their characters and would rather just roll dice and role play.  I'm not one of them, you apparently aren't either, but the designers seem to want to tell us to just play a wizard instead of a fighter.  I think we should be able to play fighters with plot power, but then we get flak from those simulationists who say "daily powers on a fighter don't make sense, stop turning fighters into wizards."  Again I disagree with them, but such is life.  Second, if plot power comes down to limited resources, we kind of had that in 4e.  The problem was too much disparity between optimized and non-optimized characters meant charop overshadowed player skill, and that nova-windows lead to cookie-cutter encounters (every encounter turned into "leader/controller lays down an ENT buff/debuff, then everyone else APs to spam as many multi-attack powers as possible during that window," regardless of what you were fighting).

As I've said elsewhere, my ideal system would be AEDU or power points with a broader list of powers known than powers useable in a given encounter.  That leaves you meaningful decisions, because if you choose the multi-attack encounter power then you can't use the status effect encounter power, and if you use the EoE buff daily this encounter you can't use it next encounter or use the massive damage daily this encounter.  If properly balanced, each one is better in different situations so using the right one at the right time or the wrong one at the wrong time makes a difference - it gives you plot power.  Not everyone would have to have the same class structure, of course - some could have more dailies and less encounters (paladins vs fighters), some could know more but have to prep them in advance while others know fewer but get to choose on the fly (wizards vs sorcerers).  The same would go for utilities: some could be useable at will, others at-will provided you paid the cost (rituals, martial practices, etc), some encounter, some daily; some prepped in the morning, some every short rest, and others useable on the fly.  The important thing being you can never use all your powers in a given encounter or reuse all of them next encounter, because that eliminates the choice.  An essentials style character has no choice, because it's pretty much irrelevant whether he uses powerstrike this round or next round (and almost always better to use it this round insofar as there is a difference), and never any reason not to use it.  
This topic makes me sad.  I think if they make a game that genuinely makes a lot of you all happy then it won't be one I'll enjoy.  Oh wait, they did that.  4e.  

I just hope they can modularize it well. 
I think I'm getting you now.  Essentially you want every class to have the same opportunities for player skill to push you over the top.  In 4e, an optimized character played by monkeys could trounce encounters that a poorly built character played by Sun Tzu would struggle with, so charop overshadowed smart play.  In 3.5, unless you were a wizard, there were relatively few tactical options that would have any effect - fighters would spam either basic attacks or improved trip or whatever their "best" option was.  Of course, decisions like when to advance/retreat, when to sneak in the back/bust in the front, whether to go right or left, those are A) group decisions, and B) relevant in any ruleset.  There's also tactical decision making (setting up flanks, using terrain, etc), but frankly that's not really character/class specific.  You seem to want in-game resource management - prepping the right powers for today and using them at the right time - that provides opportunity for in game decisions to make the difference between success and failure at a given task.  Is that right?

Assuming it is, I have a few responses.  First, the designers disagree with you.  They tried it with 4e, and dropped it with essentials when they realized that some players don't want to have to think about how to play their characters and would rather just roll dice and role play.  I'm not one of them, you apparently aren't either, but the designers seem to want to tell us to just play a wizard instead of a fighter.  I think we should be able to play fighters with plot power, but then we get flak from those simulationists who say "daily powers on a fighter don't make sense, stop turning fighters into wizards."  Again I disagree with them, but such is life.  Second, if plot power comes down to limited resources, we kind of had that in 4e.  The problem was too much disparity between optimized and non-optimized characters meant charop overshadowed player skill, and that nova-windows lead to cookie-cutter encounters (every encounter turned into "leader/controller lays down an ENT buff/debuff, then everyone else APs to spam as many multi-attack powers as possible during that window," regardless of what you were fighting).

As I've said elsewhere, my ideal system would be AEDU or power points with a broader list of powers known than powers useable in a given encounter.  That leaves you meaningful decisions, because if you choose the multi-attack encounter power then you can't use the status effect encounter power, and if you use the EoE buff daily this encounter you can't use it next encounter or use the massive damage daily this encounter.  If properly balanced, each one is better in different situations so using the right one at the right time or the wrong one at the wrong time makes a difference - it gives you plot power.  Not everyone would have to have the same class structure, of course - some could have more dailies and less encounters (paladins vs fighters), some could know more but have to prep them in advance while others know fewer but get to choose on the fly (wizards vs sorcerers).  The same would go for utilities: some could be useable at will, others at-will provided you paid the cost (rituals, martial practices, etc), some encounter, some daily; some prepped in the morning, some every short rest, and others useable on the fly.  The important thing being you can never use all your powers in a given encounter or reuse all of them next encounter, because that eliminates the choice.  An essentials style character has no choice, because it's pretty much irrelevant whether he uses powerstrike this round or next round (and almost always better to use it this round insofar as there is a difference), and never any reason not to use it.  


I am one such simulationist and I still approve this message, proper diagnosis of the cause. However, I for one do not agree with the cure you suggest. Still this was worth quoting for truth.
Im sorry but ADEU is a French word for goodbye, not a combat system. You say, "Encounter Power" and I stop listening to you. [spoiler Have Played/Run] D&D 1st ed D&D 3.5 ed D&D 4th ed Shadowrun Star Wars SAGA Cyberpunk Interlock Unlimited Run.Net [/spoiler] I know my games, don't try to argue about them. [spoiler Alignment Explained] This is a very simple problem and I will outline it below. Their are two types of people Type 1: a lot of people (not all, but a lot) who play see alignment as "I am lawful good thus I must play lawful good" Type 2: a lot of people (not all, but a lot) who play see alignment as "My previous actions have made people and the gods view me as lawful good. The difference is subtle but it is the source of the misunderstanding. Alignment does not dictate how you play your character. All it does is tell you, the player, how the rest of the world views you, and your previous actions. Any future actions will be judged by their own merits. Say you're a baby eating pyromaniac. You are most likely chaotic evil. But one day you decide, "Hey all I really need is love." So you get a wife, have a kid, and get a kitten named Mr. Snook'ems. You become a member of the PTA and help build houses for the homeless. You are no longer chaotic evil. And just because you were once chaotic evil it does not mean that you have to stay chaotic evil. Alignment never dictates what you can do, it only says what you have done. Now that is cleared up here is a simple test. What is the alignment of... A Police officer: The average Citizen: A Vigilante: The answer is simple. The Police officer is lawful good. He uses the laws of the country and city to arrest people and make them pay their debt to society. The Citizen is Neutral good. He wants to live is a place that is Good and follows moral and ethical principle, but he sometimes finds the laws impedes him, and he wonders why we spend so much on poor people. The Vigilante is Chaotic Good. He wants to uphold the morals and ethics of society but finds that the bad guys often slip through the cracks in the law. He takes it upon himself to protect the people from these criminals. That is the basic breakdown of the good alignment axis. What needs to be remembered is that any one of these people can change alignments, easily. The Police officer could be bought off by a local gang, and suddenly he drops to lawful neutral. The average citizen might find that his neighbors dog is annoying, barking at night and keeping him up. So he poisons its food, now he is no longer good, he is stepping towards true neutral. Maybe the citizen really goes crazy also kills the neighbor, hello neutral evil. It is possible that the Vigilante realizes that the cops are actually doing a pretty good job and decides to become an officer himself, leaving his masked crime fighting days behind him. Now he is Lawful good. Your alignment is not carved in stone, it is malleable and will change to reflect your actions.[/spoiler]
This topic makes me sad.  I think if they make a game that genuinely makes a lot of you all happy then it won't be one I'll enjoy.  Oh wait, they did that.  4e.  

I just hope they can modularize it well. 


I'm sorry to hear it. I just get very bored with characters that are essentially just boulders rolling down a hill, destroying whatever is in their path. Sure, you can roll to see how many houses or trees get smashed, but so can the DM or the guy next to you. Sure, you can describe the boulder and decide what it's saying. Skill use and combat are just slow-motion simulations though - they're very close to non-interactive. Use door skill on doors, use people skill on people, flank and stab. It's possible to narrate and breathe some life into it, just like anything else. You could handle the narration and give your character sheet to someone else though. He'd have to remind you of your numbers and maybe mark off uses of magic items and that's it. I don't see why it's a bad idea to add some actual choices to those boulder classes. Maybe you don't like the way 4E does it, cool. Would you really be that unhappy playing a non-caster who wasn't doing the same thing every round?

It's also weird that you've read this thread and think that it's pure praise of 4E and a demand that DDN be the same. Powerroleplayer's point about Sun Tzu and monkeys seems like something other than that.

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

@emwasick
I didn't think it was pure praise of 4e.   I think part of it was the beliefs people have about gaming.   And I'm not talking about balance here for the record.

I realize these boards do not reflect the gaming community as a whole either but I do think they are a sizable faction.  Probably most people fall in the middle somewhere on everything.  It is the extremes though that drive the debate and it is the middle that chooses.  That's true in so many aspects of life.

If I wrote a D&D game it would not be 3e.  It wouldn't be 4e either of course.  It wouldn't be 1e or 2e either.  I guess that's why I'm hopeful for 5e.  If nothing else it might be easier to houserule.  These boards are helpful to me because they force me to clarify my own desires for a game.  Without 5e, I would probably start with a retroclone and start houseruling from there.  I'd add a better skill system in most instances. 











 
@emwasick
I didn't think it was pure praise of 4e.   I think part of it was the beliefs people have about gaming.   And I'm not talking about balance here for the record.

I realize these boards do not reflect the gaming community as a whole either but I do think they are a sizable faction.  Probably most people fall in the middle somewhere on everything.  It is the extremes though that drive the debate and it is the middle that chooses.  That's true in so many aspects of life.

If I wrote a D&D game it would not be 3e.  It wouldn't be 4e either of course.  It wouldn't be 1e or 2e either.  I guess that's why I'm hopeful for 5e.  If nothing else it might be easier to houserule.  These boards are helpful to me because they force me to clarify my own desires for a game.  Without 5e, I would probably start with a retroclone and start houseruling from there.  I'd add a better skill system in most instances.


I don't understand how this fits in context here, except for the bit at the beginning. What are you trying to say?

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.


I don't understand how this fits in context here, except for the bit at the beginning. What are you trying to say?


I was answering you.  It really doesn't fit since we are talking about balance.  I was just noticing various discussions and getting depressed about where the game is at these days.   Not 4e specifically but just game theory in general.  At least as practiced by a lot of people.  Not all of course.

I guess my concern is this...

1.  If 5e really made these people I disagree with happy then it probably can't possibly make me happy.  I mean I hope for modules but the philosophy itself seeps in at various points.

2.  If 5e makes me happy then those people will be unhappy.  For example, I don't see how 5e cannot be a tiny bit less balanced than 4e.  4e build a very tight harness in order to maintain balance.  That harness we know isn't going to exist in 5e and as such it's bound to be a bit more unbalanced even if it is far more so than 3e.  I don't mind but I fear they do.

3.  My thinking is that they are going to make me happy but it won't unite the hobby.  I believe, my opinion here, the reason will be how extreme the other side is on certain things. (e.g. perfect balance vs close enough).  One thing to remember is that D&D always seems to be running away from the previous edition.  5e will be fast.  4e was balanced.  3e had streamlining and options for all.  2e removed the objectionable stuff (devils, demons, etc..) and streamlined some but in all honestly they failed at streamlining it all that much.

I don't envy the developers job.   If anybody can do it Monte and Mike can but maybe nobody can do it.  



I was answering you.  It really doesn't fit since we are talking about balance.  I was just noticing various discussions and getting depressed about where the game is at these days.   Not 4e specifically but just game theory in general.  At least as practiced by a lot of people.  Not all of course.

I guess my concern is this...

1.  If 5e really made these people I disagree with happy then it probably can't possibly make me happy.  I mean I hope for modules but the philosophy itself seeps in at various points.

2.  If 5e makes me happy then those people will be unhappy.  For example, I don't see how 5e cannot be a tiny bit less balanced than 4e.  4e build a very tight harness in order to maintain balance.  That harness we know isn't going to exist in 5e and as such it's bound to be a bit more unbalanced even if it is far more so than 3e.  I don't mind but I fear they do.

3.  My thinking is that they are going to make me happy but it won't unite the hobby.  I believe, my opinion here, the reason will be how extreme the other side is on certain things. (e.g. perfect balance vs close enough).  One thing to remember is that D&D always seems to be running away from the previous edition.  5e will be fast.  4e was balanced.  3e had streamlining and options for all.  2e removed the objectionable stuff (devils, demons, etc..) and streamlined some but in all honestly they failed at streamlining it all that much.

I don't envy the developers job.   If anybody can do it Monte and Mike can but maybe nobody can do it.



Yeah, my point is that 4E is closer to balanced but not actually very balanced. If DDN is less balanced than 4E, that's really ugly and it means some characters will be absolutely insane. As it is, well-made 4E parties can smash through most sane encounters on autopilot, while high end 3E optimization can only be stopped by DM fiat, unless you're OK with infinite wealth or unbeatable spell combos or ER cheese.

Take a look at CharOp for the last couple of editions and tell me if you're comfortable with someone playing a high end PC. I don't mean comfortable in the sense of "But will he bother to add personality to this collection of brutal abilities?" just comfortable with the mechanical aspects. Or even find an up to date "God Wizard" guide for PF and let me know if that sounds like something you want in your campaign.

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

Well quite honestly the biggest wild card in this whole balance thing is magic. If a caster has the right spells for the right situation they would excel regardless of which pillar it is but that is subject to a high level of variance as they will not always know what spells they need to have prepared.

To be precise, that's a balance problem that magic has caused in the past, not a problem that balance has with magic.   Nothing stops a magic system from being balanced just because it's magic.  Magic is quite arbitrary and it wouldn't be at all difficult to define a system of magic that was balanced, or that was a very minor consideration in balancing characters.  Just as magic can be arbitrarily powerful, it can be arbitrarily weak or limited.  Or arbitrarily balanced.  

I guess another aspect that should be looked at is limited vs. consistent aptitude. Sure a Wizard could cast friends or a cleric could cast detect lies in a social situation but that resource is limited and possesses an opportunity cost (not memorizing sleep) where a Bard with lots of skill in diplomacy or a Paladin with a high sense motive would consistently do well without giving up potential in another area. That is tricky to balance out.

Very.  The difference between a daily and at-will ability is extremely hard to balance - impossible if you can't lock down certain aspects of the campaign.  The way to balance limited-use abilities is to balance them only against eachother - and give them to everyone.  It's the only way that has a chance of working in the absence of a 'programmed' campaign pacing.   

In addition, you have to consider not just how often something can be used, but how often it can be traded out.  In 4e, a skill could be traded out when you level, but a wizard utility spell could be traded out every day.  That makes the spell more valuable, because it's more versatile.   

Finally, back to pacing, a limited-use ability is likely to be reserved for a critical moment.  While that means it can go un-used much of the time, and sometimes go un-used for an entire recharge period, when it is used, it is very  often at that big, dramatic moment that really counts.  So, while it's nice to have some workmanlike competence in something you do round in and round out, it really doesn't earn you your place in legend.   PCs are supposed to be (or at least potentially become) legendary heroes.  Slow and steady doesn't get you there.

 

 

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Personally, I don't see why "class balance" is so important to everyone. This isn't World of Warcraft, where one man's fighter has to fight another man's rogue! They do NOT all need to be balanced for combat.

I preferred the old mechanic, where the classes were all specialists in their particular field. While I wouldn't want everyone but the fighter to be totally useless in combat (since you can't always choose who gets attacked - also there is disproportionately more combat than there is anything else), I do want the fighters to be better at it than everyone else. I want rogues to be mainly concerned with locks and traps, clerics to be mainly concerned with buffing and healing, and wizards to be mainly concerned with detecting magic, disabling magical wards and obliterating foes from afar. I really don't like this "everyone is great in combat - we all just do it in different ways!" mechanic.
Everything expressed in this post is my opinion, and should be taken as such. I can not declare myself to be the supreme authority on all matters...even though I am right!
@emwasick
I realize these boards do not reflect the gaming community as a whole either but I do think they are a sizable faction.  Probably most people fall in the middle somewhere on everything.  It is the extremes though that drive the debate and it is the middle that chooses.  That's true in so many aspects of life.
 



Nah.  Make a few assumptions and run the math.  The population of these boards, and of commonly associated boards, works out* at less 1/2 % of the community, and that's being generous.  It's not remotely representative.  It is, however, the best we have available. 

Having travelled a fair bit, and played with various different communities and contients, I'd suggest that the variety within the game is far far wider than most people on internet boards give it credit for. 

(*or at least it did last time I tried to do some proper estimates)

As always in life, the middle won't decide.  A fringe group trying to understand the needs of the middle will decide.  And they'll struggle, because the middle is not a vast commonality of opinion, it's a group of people whose opinions have common factors.  The 'average gamer' is thus a construct with a set of opinions that appear very familiar, but which in practice very few people actually agree with on all points.  Add to that that controvertial opinions are often controvertial precisely because they are considered important...  let's just say that in the new edition a longsword will do d8 damage. Not because everyone agrees that's what it should be, but because almost noone really considers the matter important enough to change. 

As for the whole narrativist/simulationist smokescreen, I'm going to stick my neck out and say that the distinction isn't really that important here.  No, I'm not saying that because I don't understand the terms, or because I havn't thought about the issue properly.  I'm saying that because these are terms about playstyle, and the brief, as I understand it, is to incorporate as many different playstyles as possible.  So if we get a game that works for one, and not for the other, then we've already failed.  This game has always been fairly rules-heavy, and I don't see that changing.  So long as the player's powers and abilities are customisable enough and have a big enough mechanical impact on play to act as a narrative lever, and so long as those abilities and powers are limited to where they'd be thematically appropriate (so warrior shouldn't be healing others without a solid background reason), then I think the conflict is largely theoretical, rather than practical.  There's no real reason why a single set of rules can't support a variety of different playstyles.  Unless people think I'm missing something here?  I'm happy to convinced otherwise, preferablty with a concrete example from play. 
  I do want the fighters to be better at it than everyone else.  


Has never happened outside of very  low levels ... never ever ever. 

Gygaxes comment... he figured long term players would gravitate to spell casters for there flexibility and power... there was absolutely no doubt about it.

The non-casters  are and have always been past those introductory levels completelly outclassed even in there own arenas. Theoryville where DMs totally reigned in what spells were available sure right.
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

I really don't like this "everyone is great in combat - we all just do it in different ways!" mechanic.



And I won't play a game that doesn't let my PC contribute meaningfully in combat.  I played that game in 3.5 and did not have fun when I played that pc.

And if all the rogue is useful for is traps and locks, what happens when there are not any traps and locks?  I have been playing in a 4E campaign for about a year now without any traps and locks that I can remember.  We had a rogue join the party recently, but besides sneaking around a lot he would have had nothing to do under that system.  As it is with 4E he is useful in combat and if the DM decides to start throwing more traps and locks at us he can be good at that too.

Why people want PCs forced into being useless most of the time is beyond me.  Its really not hard to make PCs useful in combat and non-combat situations at the same time and if you want your PC to not contribute in combat no one is stopping you.
Personally, I don't see why "class balance" is so important to everyone. This isn't World of Warcraft, where one man's fighter has to fight another man's rogue! They do NOT all need to be balanced for combat.

I preferred the old mechanic, where the classes were all specialists in their particular field. While I wouldn't want everyone but the fighter to be totally useless in combat (since you can't always choose who gets attacked - also there is disproportionately more combat than there is anything else), I do want the fighters to be better at it than everyone else. I want rogues to be mainly concerned with locks and traps, clerics to be mainly concerned with buffing and healing, and wizards to be mainly concerned with detecting magic, disabling magical wards and obliterating foes from afar. I really don't like this "everyone is great in combat - we all just do it in different ways!" mechanic.



The problem with "the old mechanic" is that it was trivially easy for the magic--using classes to step all over the "specialists in their particular field". Having niche protection as you outline is fine, provided it's actually maintained - there are games where this happens. Having niche protection, and then only applying it to some classes while allowing others to do any shtcik, often better than the supposed specialist, does not make for balance. And that genie having been released from it's bottle, there are plenty of people willing to reject any version of D&D which doesn't play that way.  

These, in the day when heaven was falling, The hour when earth's foundations fled, Followed their mercenary calling, And took their wages, and are dead. Playing: Legendof Five Rings, The One Ring, Fate Core. Planning: Lords in the Eastern Marches, Runequest in Glorantha.