Why must everything balance?

Why must everything balance?

Why must a 20th level fighter == 20th level mage == 20th level thief in combat? Why is this so important? And when it's all balanced, does this ensure a rivetting roleplaying experience?

The idea of a roleplaying game, which was incidentally taught to me by D&D in 80s, is to become the hero of your favourite novel or movie and bring that character to life through your actions. The rules back in the day were serving the telling of heoric tales and having a semblence of parity with fantasy literature/movies. It was very common to watch a movie or read a book and deduce what "D&D spell" was cast or how powerful a character was. Whether it was true or not, my friends and I often thought that leading fantasy and mythology works were inspirations to the game designers of that day.

There was a rule system, sure; the most advanced seen yet in AD&D with THAC0, races not being classes, annonce your action in reverse initiative order and lots more besides. It's arguably not as elegant as today's game systems (although it still has it's followers), but most importantly it was still highly functional and my friends and I played as much as we could. It was functional because... 

It was Story first. The rules were there, and the DM could change any of them. The DM was encouraged to break whatever rule he saw fit for any reason, but most likely he did so to serve the story.

As the roleplaying hobby grew in popularity and other titles for other genres came onboard, the game systems became more refined, more distinct from one another and conversations increasingly became to be about the rules of a system (more than it's genre or story). What we learned is that the good rules evoke the feeling of the game system or genre. While D&D was a constant, these other systems were enticing because they had wildly different systems.

Each time D&D revised it's rule system, it became more refined, more elegant, more options, better art!, but also more about the rules. It was becoming less and less about creating a fictional character from a novel as it was about playing a game. 4e, imo, is the pinnacle of this trend - creating a game where a vast majority of the rules play out with miniatures on a grid. D&D is not the only rpg to become more boardgame-like, the latest Warhammer Fantasy is a huge box of cards and tokens that need booster packs of more cards and tokens to play with more than 3 (I believe). 

It is now about the Rules. The story is there, and the DM is required to come up with that. Be prepared for a long argument if you tell a player he cannot have his AoO. Or that your arch-villain moves 7 squares instead of 6. 

The idea of balance; of game balance is an incredible feat of math. I can accept that some semblance of equity between the classes is a good thing, but I fundamentally disagree that they should be equal in combat because a roleplaying game is more than it's combat encounters. Great effort went into creating encounter levels, doing I don't know how much math, so that the DM could quickly see the combat challenge against the PCs and provide a balanced challenge.

Back in the day, the DM brought balance to an imperfectly balanced game. Some of my best memories are a result of totally imbalanced things; the deck of many things, a ring of wishes, an artefact like the Appartus of Kwalish or the god Bane or Bhaal (I think) ripping off the leg of the horse you're riding on and beating you about the head with it. (source: Godswar trilogy: FR Waterdeep). 

These days, the game system is beautifully mathematical balanced (for combat), but I think this has caused it to suffer in other respects. I'm not a fan of "everything must balance" and in fact it's an indication of a very structured rule set for a boardgame where all players are equal (incl the DM) and not for a freeform roleplaying game limited only by the imagination of the players at the table. 
The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules. -Gary Gygax
You need balance because not all good story-tellers are good at adjudicating.

As you said, it's all about the story. All these beautiful mathematical models are here for one thing: spend less time designing encounters and more time thinking about the story. Having rules also limits the number of silly arguments you can have with your players. My worst RPG memories are about arguing for hours with friends. My most frustrating RPG memory is my DM telling me I can't climb up a rope because I'm not a thief.

As a side note, the edition with the most rules is 3rd edition.
Why must everything balance?


Because "The wizard kills 3d6 enemies a turn while the fighter plays with this red ball" makes for a boring story?

Zammm = Batman.

It's my sig in a box
58280208 wrote:
Everything is better when you read it in Bane's voice.
192334281 wrote:
Your human antics and desire to continue living have moved me. Just kidding. You cannot move me physically or emotionally. Wall humor.
57092228 wrote:
Copy effects work like a photocopy machine: you get a copy of the 'naked' card, NOT of what's on it.
56995928 wrote:
Funny story: InQuest Magazine (I think it was InQuest) had an oversized Chaos Orb which I totally rooked someone into allowing into a (non-sanctioned) game. I had a proxy card that was a Mountain with "Chaos Orb" written on it. When I played it, my opponent cried foul: Him: "WTF? a Proxy? no-one said anything about Proxies. Do you even own an actual Chaos Orb?" Me: "Yes, but I thought it would be better to use a Proxy." Him: "No way. If you're going to put a Chaos Orb in your deck you have to use your actual Chaos Orb." Me: "*Sigh*. Okay." I pulled out this huge Chaos Orb and placed it on the table. He tried to cry foul again but everyone else said he insisted I use my actual Chaos Orb and that was my actual Chaos Orb. I used it, flipped it and wiped most of his board. Unsurprisingly, that only worked once and only because everyone present thought it was hilarious.
My DM on Battleminds:
no, see i can kill defenders, but 8 consecutive crits on a battlemind, eh walk it off.
144543765 wrote:
195392035 wrote:
Hi guys! So, I'm a sort of returning player to Magic. I say sort of because as a child I had two main TCG's I liked. Yu-Gi-Oh, and Pokemon. Some of my friends branched off in to Magic, and I bought two pre-made decks just to kind of fit in. Like I said, Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon were what I really knew how to play. I have a extensive knowledge of deck building in those two TCG's. However, as far as Magic is concerned, I only ever used those two pre made decks. I know how the game is played, and I know general things, but now I want to get in the game for real. I want to begin playing it as a regular. My question is, are all cards ever released from the time of the inception of this game until present day fair game in a deck? Or are there special rules? Are some cards forbidden or restricted? Thanks guys, and I will gladly accept ANY help lol.
I have the same problem with women.
117639611 wrote:
198869283 wrote:
Oh I have a standing rule. If someone plays a Planeswalker I concede the game. I refuse to play with or against people who play Planeswalkers. They really did ruin the game.
A turn two Tibalt win?! Wicked... Betcha don't see that everyday.

The Pony Co. 

Is this my new ego sig? Yes it is, other Barry
57461258 wrote:
And that's why you should never, ever call RP Jesus on being a troll, because then everyone else playing along gets outed, too, and the thread goes back to being boring.
57461258 wrote:
See, this is why RPJesus should be in charge of the storyline. The novel line would never have been cancelled if he had been running the show. Specifically the Slobad and Geth's Head talkshow he just described.
57461258 wrote:
Not only was that an obligatory joke, it was an on-topic post that still managed to be off-topic due to thread derailment. RP Jesus does it again folks.
92481331 wrote:
I think I'm gonna' start praying to Jesus... That's right, RPJesus, I'm gonna' be praying to you, right now. O' Jesus Please continue to make my time here on the forums fun and cause me to chuckle. Amen.
92481331 wrote:
56957928 wrote:
It was wonderful. Us Johnnies had a field day. That Timmy with the Grizzly bears would actually have to think about swinging into your Mogg Fanatic, giving you time to set up your silly combo. Nowadays it's all DERPSWING! with thier blue jeans and their MP3 players and their EM EM OH AR PEE JEES and their "Dewmocracy" and their children's card games and their Jersey Shores and their Tattooed Tenaged Vampire Hunters from Beverly Hills
Seriously, that was amazing. I laughed my *ss off. Made my day, and I just woke up.
[quote=ArtVenn You're still one of my favorite people... just sayin'.[/quote]
56756068 wrote:
56786788 wrote:
.....would it be a bit blasphemous if I said, "PRAYSE RPJAYSUS!" like an Evangelical preacher?
Perhaps, but who doesn't like to blaspheme every now and again? Especially when Mr. RPJesus is completely right.
56756068 wrote:
I don't say this often, but ... LOL
57526128 wrote:
You... You... Evil something... I actualy made the damn char once I saw the poster... Now you made me see it again and I gained resolve to put it into my campaign. Shell be high standing oficial of Cyrix order. Uterly mad and only slightly evil. And it'll be bad. Evil even. And ill blame you and Lizard for it :P.
57042968 wrote:
111809331 wrote:
I'm trying to work out if you're being sarcastic here. ...
Am going to stop you right there... it's RPJesus... he's always sarcastic
58335208 wrote:
56957928 wrote:
112114441 wrote:
we can only hope it gets the jace treatment...it could have at least been legendary
So that even the decks that don't run it run it to deal with it? Isn't that like the definition of format warping?
I lol'd.
56287226 wrote:
98088088 wrote:
Uktabi Orangutan What the heck's going on with those monkeys?
The most common answer is that they are what RPJesus would call "[Debutantes avert your eyes]ing."
56965458 wrote:
Show
57461258 wrote:
116498949 wrote:
I’ve removed content from this thread because off-topic discussions are a violation of the Code of Conduct. You can review the Code here: www.wizards.com/Company/About.aspx?x=wz_... Please keep your posts polite, on-topic, and refrain from making personal attacks. You are welcome to disagree with one another but please do so respectfully and constructively. If you wish to report a post for Code of Conduct violation, click on the “Report Post” button above the post and this will submit your report to the moderators on duty.
...Am I the only one that thinks this is reaching the point of downright Kafkaesque insanity?
I condone the use of the word Kafkaesque. However, I'm presentely ambivalent. I mean, that can't be serious, right? We're April 1st, right? They didn't mod RPJesus for off-topic discussion when the WHOLE THREAD IS OFF-TOPIC, right? Right.
57545908 wrote:
56957928 wrote:
Save or die. If you disagree with this, you're wrong (Not because of any points or arguements that have been made, but I just rolled a d20 for you and got a 1, so you lose).
58397368 wrote:
58222628 wrote:
This just won the argument, AFAIC.
That's just awesome.
57471038 wrote:
57718868 wrote:
HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THE BEAR PRODUCING WORDS OF WILDING?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!
That's what RPJesus tends to do. That's why I don't think he's a real person, but some Magic Card Archive Server sort of machine, that is programmed to react to other posters' comments with obscure cards that do in fact exist, but somehow missed by even the most experienced Magic players. And then come up with strange combos with said cards. All of that is impossible for a normal human to do given the amount of time he does it and how often he does it. He/It got me with Light of Sanction, which prompted me to go to RQ&A to try and find if it was even possible to do combat damage to a creature I control (in light that Mark of Asylum exists).
71235715 wrote:
+10
100176878 wrote:
56957928 wrote:
57078538 wrote:
heaven or hell.
Round 1. Lets rock.
GG quotes! RPJesus just made this thread win!
56906968 wrote:
56957928 wrote:
143359585 wrote:
Blue players get all the overpowerered cards like JTMS. I think it's time that wizards gave something to people who remember what magic is really about: creatures.
Initially yes, Wizards was married to blue. However, about a decade ago they had a nasty divorce, and a few years after that they began courting the attention of Green. Then in Worldwake they had a nasty affair with their ex, but as of Innistrad, things seem to have gotten back on track, and Wizards has even proposed.
You are my favorite. Yes you. And moments like this make it so. Thank you RPJesus for just being you.
On what flavor text fits me:
57307308 wrote:
Surely RPJesus gets Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius?
56874518 wrote:
First: I STILL can't take you seriously with that avatar. And I can take RPJesus seriously, so that's saying something.
121689989 wrote:
I'd offer you a cookie for making me laugh but it has an Upkeep Cost that has been known to cause people to quit eating.
56267956 wrote:
I <3 you loads
57400888 wrote:
56957928 wrote:
"AINT NO LAWS IN THE SKY MOTHER****." - Agrus Kos, Wojek Veteran
10/10. Amazing.
I don't necessarily care if the numbers balance. So long as the fun balances.

I don't expect my greatsword wileding fighter to be able to kill as many people in a single swing as the wizard can with a fireball. Just as the wizard shouldn't expect to be able to stand up to the beating said fighter would recieve while taking on those foes in melee.

The classes should be good at what they do - that doesn't necessarily mean same damage numbers. The options to use to be good at what you should be good at, that's what's important. Wizrds provide utility and big apocalyptic spells. Fighter's provide unparalleled tactical flexibility. Barbarians can soak up so much damage and dish out as much, rogues are full of tricks to expose and exploit weaknesses etc.

That's the key for me - so long as the character's are good at what they should be, and fun to play - i don't give a damn if numbers don't match. But the experience has to match, every player should walk away from the table smiling. 
Why must everything balance?


Because "The wizard kills 3d6 enemies a turn while the fighter plays with this red ball" makes for a boring story?



RPJesus, you say many things that I enjoy. Please keep it up.

But, just imagine this scenario. The party confronts a Big Bad Evil Guy. The party Fighter steps out, tells the Bandit King that he is here to deliver vengeance to him for killing his sister. The Bandit King sneers, and orders his minions to attack. The Fighter steps up to hack through these minions (maybe he kills one).....and the Wizard casts Phantasmal Killer, or Baleful Polymorph, or any other number of "I Win!" spells and neutralizes the Bandit King.

Wow. What a climax.

Gold is for the mistress, silver for the maid

Copper for the craftsman, cunning at his trade.

"Good!" said the Baron, sitting in his hall,

"But Iron -- Cold Iron -- is master of them all." -Kipling

 

Defenders: We ARE the wall!

 

I've replaced the previous Edition Warring line in my sig with this one, because honestly, everybody needs to work together to make the D&D they like without trampling on somebody else's D&D.

 

Miss d20 Modern? Take a look at Dias Ex Machina Game's UltraModern 4e!

 

57019168 wrote:
I am a hero, not a chump.
Everyone doesn't have to be balanced in combat. Or Exploration. Or Interaction.

But everyone must be balanced in story time.

If a character doesn't meantingful contribute for a long time, the player will get boring and unhappy. At tha point it is up to the player to make his own fun (make stuff up) and for the DM to adjudicate (make a judgement of made up stuff).

If you rely on adjudication rather than playtested rules to perform balance, you have to heavily rely of the DM's ability to adjudicate and the player's abilty to make things up (that don't break the game). And if either person are not really good at their job, it can be a complete disaster or a lot of extra work.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

Why must everything balance?

Why must a 20th level fighter == 20th level mage == 20th level thief in combat? Why is this so important? And when it's all balanced, does this ensure a rivetting roleplaying experience?


What is the point of levels if they don't mean anything?


The idea of a roleplaying game, which was incidentally taught to me by D&D in 80s, is to become the hero of your favourite novel or movie and bring that character to life through your actions. The rules back in the day were serving the telling of heoric tales and having a semblence of parity with fantasy literature/movies. It was very common to watch a movie or read a book and deduce what "D&D spell" was cast or how powerful a character was. Whether it was true or not, my friends and I often thought that leading fantasy and mythology works were inspirations to the game designers of that day.

There was a rule system, sure; the most advanced seen yet in AD&D with THAC0, races not being classes, annonce your action in reverse initiative order and lots more besides. It's arguably not as elegant as today's game systems (although it still has it's followers), but most importantly it was still highly functional and my friends and I played as much as we could.


OK, so it wasn't the best possible system, but it worked. What's wrong with having a better system that also works?

It was functional because... 

It was Story first. The rules were there, and the DM could change any of them. The DM was encouraged to break whatever rule he saw fit for any reason, but most likely he did so to serve the story.

As the roleplaying hobby grew in popularity and other titles for other genres came onboard, the game systems became more refined, more distinct from one another and conversations increasingly became to be about the rules of a system (more than it's genre or story). What we learned is that the good rules evoke the feeling of the game system or genre. While D&D was a constant, these other systems were enticing because they had wildly different systems.

Each time D&D revised it's rule system, it became more refined, more elegant, more options, better art!, but also more about the rules. It was becoming less and less about creating a fictional character from a novel as it was about playing a game. 4e, imo, is the pinnacle of this trend - creating a game where a vast majority of the rules play out with miniatures on a grid. D&D is not the only rpg to become more boardgame-like, the latest Warhammer Fantasy is a huge box of cards and tokens that need booster packs of more cards and tokens to play with more than 3 (I believe). 

It is now about the Rules. The story is there, and the DM is required to come up with that. Be prepared for a long argument if you tell a player he cannot have his AoO. Or that your arch-villain moves 7 squares instead of 6.


Sorry you've got such annoying players.

The idea of balance; of game balance is an incredible feat of math. I can accept that some semblance of equity between the classes is a good thing, but I fundamentally disagree that they should be equal in combat because a roleplaying game is more than it's combat encounters. Great effort went into creating encounter levels, doing I don't know how much math, so that the DM could quickly see the combat challenge against the PCs and provide a balanced challenge.

Back in the day, the DM brought balance to an imperfectly balanced game. Some of my best memories are a result of totally imbalanced things; the deck of many things, a ring of wishes, an artefact like the Appartus of Kwalish or the god Bane or Bhaal (I think) ripping off the leg of the horse you're riding on and beating you about the head with it. (source: Godswar trilogy: FR Waterdeep). 

These days, the game system is beautifully mathematical balanced (for combat), but I think this has caused it to suffer in other respects. I'm not a fan of "everything must balance" and in fact it's an indication of a very structured rule set for a boardgame where all players are equal (incl the DM) and not for a freeform roleplaying game limited only by the imagination of the players at the table. 



No set of game rules can add imagination to your game. If you're looking to a book to do that you won't find it in any RPG anywhere. It was there in my OD&D games in 1975 and it is there in my 4e games in 2012. If you're all worried about balance and won't toss the PCs an artifact for some fun it isn't the rules that are the issue. Cool awesome stuff happens in my game every week (well hopefully).
That is not dead which may eternal lie
The game should be balanced in regards to the roles and expectations for the characters, world, creatures, and objects, so everyone has a chance to shine, whether it is in combat or out. Careful attention should be paid to make the rules transparent and easy to understand. However, like anything other RPG balance is a goal to reach, but can never be obtained.

The most difficult thing to balance is magic versus the mundane. I would be happy if there were tradeoffs for each type of character that is chosen, and there are multiple paths to reach the same objective, but magic does not trump everything else so the party has to sit around and wait for a spell caster to recover, whether it is healing, or something else.
Thanks for the responses guys.

Many of your examples cite combat where an imbalance would be unwelcome.  So parity in a combat role is a must for you guys. You can be a halfing thief, a gnomish illusionist, a half-orc warrior, an elven cleric and a human bard (for good measure ;) ) and while in combat they're equatable. 

Doesn't that feel forced? Thematically? Narratively? Aragon == Frodo == Gandalf? 

I can agree it being a problem if they weren't balanced, if the focus of the game was on combat. To me 4e is all about the combat and the grid. Every player can do something of "merit" every combat turn and feel like they are contributing to the combat. What an awesome way to make the fighter (and other martial classes) more interesting. For editions we've just had to walk up to an enemy and hit it with a weapon. Now we got powers with varying effects. And everyone's got them.

But with everything being equal, isn't some of the "magic" of difference lost? 

For most I'm sure, the spotlight that goes around the table to pay respect to a player's character usually happens both outside and inside of combat. The halfling thief spotted the silent alarm on the door and disabled it, the gnomish illusionist distracted the guards with some illusion, the half-orc warrior lifted the heavy portcullis, the elven cleric recognised the correct manuscript and the bard wrote a song about it all. ;) 

The example of the big bad chief who gets insta-killed by a one-shot spell by a high level character has actually never happened to me in 27 years of roleplaying.  I'm not saying it cannot happen, but I think there are lots of ways out of that example that can create great drama. "He clutches a pendant around his neck and your spell frazzles his 3 lieutenants." - "He dissolves into goo, dripping like lumpy wax from the balcony. His troops terrified immediately surrender and offer you Wizard complete fealty." I'm just saying that it doesn't have to ever be boring. You got to roll with it. Cheat. Whatever, to keep it interesting. Maybe they're twins. Shrug.

I'm obviously not a fan of 4e, but don't prejudge the intent of this thread by that preference. I'm very interested to know what you all think with regards "balance": be it character, with each other or with monsters. In combat, out of combat. Cos despite all the lambasting the prior editions receive because of their lack of balance, I still had a ton of fun.

It doesn't all have to be about combat, does it?

The wizard toasting 3d6 enemies didn't happen every turn and when fighting evil, there are always nd6 enemies. ;)
The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules. -Gary Gygax

No set of game rules can add imagination to your game. If you're looking to a book to do that you won't find it in any RPG anywhere. It was there in my OD&D games in 1975 and it is there in my 4e games in 2012. If you're all worried about balance and won't toss the PCs an artifact for some fun it isn't the rules that are the issue. Cool awesome stuff happens in my game every week (well hopefully).



Sure, I can completely agree.

Two things I'd like to add:
1) The rule system provides flavour (West End Games D6 Star Wars truly feels heroic, derring-do adventure; D&D wouldn't be D&D if it went to percentile die rolls only, etc)
2) Rules support the imagination and the imagination makes visuals from the math.

If you don't like large swathes of the rules, it's harder to get that same level of "cinema" in your games.
The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules. -Gary Gygax
Thanks for the responses guys.

Many of your examples cite combat where an imbalance would be unwelcome.  So parity in a combat role is a must for you guys. You can be a halfing thief, a gnomish illusionist, a half-orc warrior, an elven cleric and a human bard (for good measure ;) ) and while in combat they're equatable. 

Doesn't that feel forced? Thematically? Narratively? Aragon == Frodo == Gandalf?



Literature does not translate well when trying to compare it to the game.  In literature, you typically only have a single "creator" - the author.  Who can create the balance as he sees fit.  HE decides who he wants to be the star and focuses the story on them.

In a roleplaying game the DM has to make sure that everyone at the table is having a good time, and for many players, watching someone else steal the show because of their classes abilities time and time again, is not having a good time.  

I can agree it being a problem if they weren't balanced, if the focus of the game was on combat. To me 4e is all about the combat and the grid. Every player can do something of "merit" every combat turn and feel like they are contributing to the combat. What an awesome way to make the fighter (and other martial classes) more interesting. For editions we've just had to walk up to an enemy and hit it with a weapon. Now we got powers with varying effects. And everyone's got them.

But with everything being equal, isn't some of the "magic" of difference lost?



I find a distinctly different feel between a character with divine power source vs. arcane in the way they operate (Paladin vs. Swordmage) - both are defenders, both have similar powers - however the paladin is the Plate wearing divine character - his powers often do radiant damage which makes him strong against undead, and he has many powers that grant him some form of healing.  The Swordmage on the otherhand, wears leather and can't use a shield - his attacks often deal various forms of element damage and are not even direct attacks with his weapon - instead using it as an implement, he can even teleport to his targets.  Even though they are balanced, it's very different feel.

Swordmage vs. Wizard, one Defender and one Contoller also feels very different - even if I go out of my way to teach the wizard how to use a sword - he is not going to be defending the party - his abilities just don't fit up with that type of activity.  

Not to say with a little creativity you can't come up with some interesting characters - I was playing an INT based fighter for a while - not a sword mage, but a normal old fighter who had a high INT, used a staff for his weapon, wore leather armor, and took feats that granted him some minor magic powers - he was for all intents and purposes, a Hedgemage. 

For most I'm sure, the spotlight that goes around the table to pay respect to a player's character usually happens both outside and inside of combat. The halfling thief spotted the silent alarm on the door and disabled it, the gnomish illusionist distracted the guards with some illusion, the half-orc warrior lifted the heavy portcullis, the elven cleric recognised the correct manuscript and the bard wrote a song about it all. ;) 

The example of the big bad chief who gets insta-killed by a one-shot spell by a high level character has actually never happened to me in 27 years of roleplaying.  I'm not saying it cannot happen, but I think there are lots of ways out of that example that can create great drama.



It happened alot in both games I've observed and played in.  AD&D wasn't as bad for me - but 3rd was really bad - the "balance" of using XP to make magic items really wasn't so.  

"He clutches a pendant around his neck and your spell frazzles his 3 lieutenants." - "He dissolves into goo, dripping like lumpy wax from the balcony. His troops terrified immediately surrender and offer you Wizard complete fealty." I'm just saying that it doesn't have to ever be boring. You got to roll with it. Cheat. Whatever, to keep it interesting. Maybe they're twins. Shrug.

 
The problem is this - how many times do you do this to the wizard player?  Eventually he gets fed up with you constantly blocking his characters spells.  

I'm obviously not a fan of 4e, but don't prejudge the intent of this thread by that preference. I'm very interested to know what you all think with regards "balance": be it character, with each other or with monsters. In combat, out of combat. Cos despite all the lambasting the prior editions receive because of their lack of balance, I still had a ton of fun.

It doesn't all have to be about combat, does it?

The wizard toasting 3d6 enemies didn't happen every turn and when fighting evil, there are always nd6 enemies. ;)



No, but even out of combat, casters could potentially become overpowered - flight, detect alignment, knock, dispell magic, etc - all these things could easily outshine the rest of the group.  

I think you will be hard pressed to find anyone to disagree with the fact that, on a whole in any previous edition low levels, non-casters typically were the strongest character, but at high levels the roles reverse and casters are more powerful.  Non-casters can only be powerful at higher levels typically through the aid of magical items (or some house rule).  

It's not to say that you can't have fun, I had a blast in AD&D and I still look back at it with the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia.  That doesn't change the fact that sometimes my best laid plans as a DM was destroyed by a single failed save against charm person - a devious little 1st level spell.  Or a failed save against some other spell.  Forget fireball - 3d6+1d6/level was great in all, in it's 15' radius.  But level 1 spells - like charm person or detect evil - yeah, those were the game killers. And by the time they could cast that single fireball, they had the ability to cast three charm persons. 

So the game put me in the situation of being the "bad guy" by either A.) Cheating and telling the player the saving throw was made or that otherwise the spell didn't work (and I like transparency with the players) and B.) just telling the players up front those spells aren't available.

That's just poor design. 
 
Overall - this is my thoughts on balance.
1. The DM (new or old) should be able to easily build adventures for any possible party composition.
2. Premade adventures should be able to be run, out of the box, with any group - this was a failure of many previous edition adventures which assumed a wizard or cleric with some amount of magical ability.
3. The game, at it's core, should be well balanced and tools should be provided to the DM to add in some "not so" balanced options (i.e. Unearthed Arcana) - it is easier to unbalance something than it is to balance something.
4. in or out of combat - no one character should be able to handle the entire encounter. 
 
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OP it's as simple as this, nobody wants to play the sidekick! In fiction it's "ok" to have all the story revolve around one character, all the other characters revolving around one character but when you get 4,5,6 RL people identifying with their PC it really damn hurts if your PC is a sidekick, and we're not here for that we're her to have fun.

Why balance, because with balance no one is a sidekick, why balance in combat because combat is the subsystem with the most rules dedicated to it in every edition.

 What you have to realize is that you're not playing Aragorn,Frodo and Gandalf, you personally are playing Aragorn your friend is playing Conan and your other friend is playing Elric of Melbourne.

 So your story is a team up between Aragorn,Conan and Elric and you're all main characters which if you know Elric this means he won't be able to acces his most devastating magic but it's no problem for elric's player because he doesn't want to overshadow his RL friends.
Thanks for the responses guys.

Many of your examples cite combat where an imbalance would be unwelcome.  So parity in a combat role is a must for you guys. You can be a halfing thief, a gnomish illusionist, a half-orc warrior, an elven cleric and a human bard (for good measure ;) ) and while in combat they're equatable. 

Doesn't that feel forced? Thematically? Narratively? Aragon == Frodo == Gandalf?


Comparisons to literature are fraught with pitfalls. Most novels don't translate well to RPGs where you have a group of players who all aught to be in the spotlight on a regular basis. The whole POINT of LotR is that Frodo isn't some big hero. I'm not sure that concept works real well in D&D. I'm sure you can create a story-telling system where you can do something like that, but IMHO such a scenario isn't something you'd want to carry through a whole campaign in an RPG. Maybe a short story arc at most.


I can agree it being a problem if they weren't balanced, if the focus of the game was on combat. To me 4e is all about the combat and the grid. Every player can do something of "merit" every combat turn and feel like they are contributing to the combat. What an awesome way to make the fighter (and other martial classes) more interesting. For editions we've just had to walk up to an enemy and hit it with a weapon. Now we got powers with varying effects. And everyone's got them.

But with everything being equal, isn't some of the "magic" of difference lost?


Only if the sole measure of difference you care about is how hard people can hit in combat (or do whatever their shtick is in combat).


For most I'm sure, the spotlight that goes around the table to pay respect to a player's character usually happens both outside and inside of combat. The halfling thief spotted the silent alarm on the door and disabled it, the gnomish illusionist distracted the guards with some illusion, the half-orc warrior lifted the heavy portcullis, the elven cleric recognised the correct manuscript and the bard wrote a song about it all. ;)


I'm sort of puzzled at why you would think any of these things are missing from 4e. I could point out that it provides perfectly good mechanics for handling all of those sorts of situations.


The example of the big bad chief who gets insta-killed by a one-shot spell by a high level character has actually never happened to me in 27 years of roleplaying.  I'm not saying it cannot happen, but I think there are lots of ways out of that example that can create great drama. "He clutches a pendant around his neck and your spell frazzles his 3 lieutenants." - "He dissolves into goo, dripping like lumpy wax from the balcony. His troops terrified immediately surrender and offer you Wizard complete fealty." I'm just saying that it doesn't have to ever be boring. You got to roll with it. Cheat. Whatever, to keep it interesting. Maybe they're twins. Shrug.


Or maybe the BBEG is just not easy to wipe out in one shot. Heck, again, 4e has a perfectly good set of mechanics to use for a paper tiger opponent, make him a minion. I don't see where any of these things are even slightly difficult in 4e.


I'm obviously not a fan of 4e, but don't prejudge the intent of this thread by that preference. I'm very interested to know what you all think with regards "balance": be it character, with each other or with monsters. In combat, out of combat. Cos despite all the lambasting the prior editions receive because of their lack of balance, I still had a ton of fun.

It doesn't all have to be about combat, does it?

The wizard toasting 3d6 enemies didn't happen every turn and when fighting evil, there are always nd6 enemies. ;)



I think the level of disparity between PCs in AD&D and particularly in 3.x was quite bothersome. It goes beyond combat balance for PCs and becomes a serious factor in all dimensions of the game. Logically if wizards are overpoweringly capable then that's a basic concept that operates in the game world and effects every aspect of it. Why would the king send a bard on a mission to kill some orcs? The game simply hangs together better and makes more sense when being a PC implies you're a capable combatant. While not every adventure is ALL about combat, it is a significant factor in pretty close to every adventure, often a major part. No other single activity that PCs engage in has equivalent weight. It is a game ABOUT daring heroes pitting themselves against dangerous foes.

Again, look at the 4e system. There is a ton of support for every aspect of the game. Which things you decide to highlight in a given game is entirely up to you, the system will provide you workable rules for all of them. Every player will have a chance to shine in all of them, regardless of what aspects you highlight.

Sure, there are always more enemies, but at many levels of play the wizard also pretty much always has another spell in his pocket too. Meanwhile the game gives my AD&D fighter squat, nothing. I don't see the point. The fantasy literature D&D draws from is chock full of mighty sword-wielding heroes. Heck, they're the majority, yet pre-4e every single edition of D&D consistently failed to deliver a game that worked for that kind of character concept. In my 4e game I'm running now the Halfling Rogue, the Human Cavalier, the Pixie Wizard, and the Elf Ranger are all equally capable of doing cool heroic stuff. In any situation I put them in they will all be active contributors to the game. Each of them will have cool moments. Nor are they all perfectly equal in all situations. They SURE are not all "the same". There's no way in heck what the wizard does in combat is even close to the same as what the wizard does. Usually they both contribute in significant ways. The same is true when the party is RPing through some sort of social situation. The same would be true regardless of what class the players want to play. This was simply not generally true in AD&D.
That is not dead which may eternal lie

No set of game rules can add imagination to your game. If you're looking to a book to do that you won't find it in any RPG anywhere. It was there in my OD&D games in 1975 and it is there in my 4e games in 2012. If you're all worried about balance and won't toss the PCs an artifact for some fun it isn't the rules that are the issue. Cool awesome stuff happens in my game every week (well hopefully).



Sure, I can completely agree.

Two things I'd like to add:
1) The rule system provides flavour (West End Games D6 Star Wars truly feels heroic, derring-do adventure; D&D wouldn't be D&D if it went to percentile die rolls only, etc)
2) Rules support the imagination and the imagination makes visuals from the math.

If you don't like large swathes of the rules, it's harder to get that same level of "cinema" in your games.

It is largely a matter of taste what people like and don't like. I find that 4e gives me a very 'cinematic' game. The rules will handle almost anything a player decides to have their character do in a simple consistent way, and each character both has plenty of cool built-in things they can use as a basis for what they want to cook up, and their characters are resilient enough to be able to risk doing crazy stuff and have it pay off.

Which things make D&D feel like D&D to one person may not be the same as those which make it feel that way to others. I'm happy if D&D retains as much of its original mechanical basis as it can consistent with improved rules. If the game is defined entirely by one specific edition then definitionally that's D&D and nothing can change. Nor is there any way for us to decide which game with the D&D brand on it is this "one true version". I think in any practical sense we can only talk about what we personally want to see and like or dislike. These discussions are almost always phrased in terms of what is good or bad about a specific system or relatively better or worse, but that's really not a basis of discussion that means much. The alternative is we compare, contrast, and argue about our different tastes. That at least makes sense, but it is usually a short "agree to disagree" kind of discussion.

IMHO 'math' is only a tool. I play (and mostly run) games to have fun and come up with amusing, engaging, interesting stories with my friends. Whatever rules we're using are just a way to help us have fun. They can support the fun or not, but I think the 'support material' part of a game is largely separate from the basic mechanics. The 4e Manual of the Planes for instance has very little system specific material in it, as did the 1e version of the same book. They both provide a lot of material a DM can use in various ways to enhance his or her game. Some of this may be better or worse. Again, which you like is a matter of taste mostly.

Maybe it pays to spend less time thinking about rules and more time playing. ;)
That is not dead which may eternal lie
I am not interested in playing Tic Tac Toe. Tic Tac Toe is a game that is perhaps the epitome of imbalance, since there is one option, one optimal strategy. All strategies die against this strategy. The game is solved, there is no interest in playing it. 3.5 is to me pretty much like Tic Tac Toe, except worse because it involves more people and promises to be a far more interesting game than it delivers.
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Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept.
Ideas for 5E
I'm inclined to agree with the OP, but my inclination stems from a particular source: Dragonlance.

Those novels were based on role-played sessions, and there seemed to be quite a strong balance between the characters.  Sure, Raistlin could cast a spell that overwhelmed one or more targets, but the other characters were always involved in the story; no one seemed to be left behind.

On a dissimilar note, I think characters should be allowed to shine by the merits of their individual strengths rather than an enforced parity between all available classes.  However, this idea requires a DM that is willing to create non-linear situations.  

If a combat encounter's purpose is to merely defeat the assorted and arranged enemies, damage-dealing characters will steal the show.  The imbalance of class powers will stymie the other players' fun, but the lackluster encounter design will also become tedious and repetitive.

Imagine that combat encounters are not as straightforward.  Imagine a scenario where there are six player characters in the lightless depths of a cavernous, ruined fortress.  The PCs are in such a situation to recover a stolen tablet of inscribed mithral; this tablet is important for a peace treaty between two warring nations.  When the PCs find the tablet, they realize three things: their goal is obstructed by Drow, that same goal is trapped, and there aren't any sources of natural light.  

In this situation, I would contend that a balanced party would not do as well as a party composed of individual strengths.  The party's thief would focus all of her efforts on recovering the tablet while the party's wizard creates a source of light and hurls spells toward likely targets, and the party's ranger, fighter, and cleric would do their best to draw the Drow away from both the wizard and the thief.  Everyone is important.  Individual strengths become powerful assets.  

Game balance is a positive idea, but balanced classes remove some of the foundational ideas from the various characters.  

As a last note, AD&D wizards never lasted long when I played in that edition; as soon as the wizard cast a spell, enemies risked everything to plunge swords and arrows into the robed figure.  
Thanks for the responses guys.

Many of your examples cite combat where an imbalance would be unwelcome.  So parity in a combat role is a must for you guys. You can be a halfing thief, a gnomish illusionist, a half-orc warrior, an elven cleric and a human bard (for good measure ;) ) and while in combat they're equatable. 

Doesn't that feel forced? Thematically? Narratively? Aragon == Frodo == Gandalf?


Comparisons to literature are fraught with pitfalls. Most novels don't translate well to RPGs where you have a group of players who all aught to be in the spotlight on a regular basis. The whole POINT of LotR is that Frodo isn't some big hero. I'm not sure that concept works real well in D&D. I'm sure you can create a story-telling system where you can do something like that, but IMHO such a scenario isn't something you'd want to carry through a whole campaign in an RPG. Maybe a short story arc at most.



Gandalf is a mentor figure who wanders off or killed off temporarily so everyone can have shine time - ie that is not a model of a player character and not really reasonable to treat as "central hero", Tolkein used artificial contrivances to make meekness significant. In a game if  you want to do that there are mechanics that can accomplish it, telling the overpowered because we are sloppy at design wizard to restrain himself so that he does outshine others wont do it. At some level they amount to explicit player controlled luck and grand scale plot coupons ie.. perhaps you want fate points to make Frodo significant... let him play one so that he is captured instead of killed. Let him play a big one so the enemies turn against oneanother and kill each other off so when Sam comes to rescue him... he will be barely guarded.

Shrug.

oh and D&D novels suck
 




  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'm inclined to agree with the OP, but my inclination stems from a particular source: Dragonlance.

Those novels were based on role-played sessions, and there seemed to be quite a strong balance between the characters.  Sure, Raistlin could cast a spell that overwhelmed one or more targets, but the other characters were always involved in the story; no one seemed to be left behind.

On a dissimilar note, I think characters should be allowed to shine by the merits of their individual strengths rather than an enforced parity between all available classes.  However, this idea requires a DM that is willing to create non-linear situations.  

If a combat encounter's purpose is to merely defeat the assorted and arranged enemies, damage-dealing characters will steal the show.  The imbalance of class powers will stymie the other players' fun, but the lackluster encounter design will also become tedious and repetitive.

Imagine that combat encounters are not as straightforward.  Imagine a scenario where there are six player characters in the lightless depths of a cavernous, ruined fortress.  The PCs are in such a situation to recover a stolen tablet of inscribed mithral; this tablet is important for a peace treaty between two warring nations.  When the PCs find the tablet, they realize three things: their goal is obstructed by Drow, that same goal is trapped, and there aren't any sources of natural light.  

In this situation, I would contend that a balanced party would not do as well as a party composed of individual strengths.  The party's thief would focus all of her efforts on recovering the tablet while the party's wizard creates a source of light and hurls spells toward likely targets, and the party's ranger, fighter, and cleric would do their best to draw the Drow away from both the wizard and the thief.  Everyone is important.  Individual strengths become powerful assets.  

Game balance is a positive idea, but balanced classes remove some of the foundational ideas from the various characters.  

As a last note, AD&D wizards never lasted long when I played in that edition; as soon as the wizard cast a spell, enemies risked everything to plunge swords and arrows into the robed figure.  



Game balance doesn't mean that characters can't have individual strenghts, rather that one characters strenghts can't override the strengths of others, making them obsolete. 

In your example above, a wizard could potentially: Cast infravision on himself to see in the dark (preferably well before the drow knew he was there), use Summon Monster spells to create some creatures to fight the drow, then cast invisibility on himself to sneak around and get the tablet.  If there was a locked door he could cast "Knock" to get past it, and levitate could be used to float over traps.  

In a "balanced" party - the rogue is still sneaking, the wizard is still casting his spells, the fighter is still keeping the drow off the group, and the cleric is still casting their heals.  It's just that the wizard couldn't do it all. 

This is what I saw as the big imbalance from previous editions, the DM had to plan around this scenario of a wizard who could do everything.
 


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..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />In your example above, a wizard could potentially: Cast infravision on himself to see in the dark (preferably well before the drow knew he was there), use Summon Monster spells to create some creatures to fight the drow, then cast invisibility on himself to sneak around and get the tablet.  If there was a locked door he could cast "Knock" to get past it, and levitate could be used to float over traps.  

In a "balanced" party - the rogue is still sneaking, the wizard is still casting his spells, the fighter is still keeping the drow off the group, and the cleric is still casting their heals.  It's just that the wizard couldn't do it all. 

This is what I saw as the big imbalance from previous editions, the DM had to plan around this scenario of a wizard who could do everything.
 




And, in my experience, the challenges that the DM had to place in front of the party to challenge the wizard would turn the rest of the party into useless lawn furniture.  I remember designing a challenge to throw at a 3.5 party, only to watch my carefully built monsters pummel most of the characters brutally for a round before the party artificer whipped out a few wands and scrolls and effectively ended the combat in a turn.  That's where balance is an issue.

If challenging Gandalf means using monsters that Frodo can't hit and Aragorn couldn't last against, why bother having them in the party?  Really, what useful role did Merry and Pippin play between Bree and the Ent forest?  Oh, right, they watched the others kill goblins and a Balrog, then got captured by orcs.  Would you really have wanted to be the player for either of them for the four or five game sessions where they were basically useless?
These are good points, and I can agree that a all-in-wonder wizard can overshadow the rest of the party.  

While wizards are potent, earlier editions had some safeguards in place.  For instance, when a DM employed the AD&D initiative system, wizards would cast most of their spells at the end of the round, and any successful attack against a casting wizard would negate the spell before it discharged.  And some spells required multiple rounds, which gave enemies more opportunity to interrupt the spell.  

However, I know AD&D and 3E were not the best systems.  They had several flaws, and at higher levels, wizards and clerics ruled PC parties while the other classes were left to the realm of tangible effect.  By that same token, however, I took exception to 4E's approach to magic; I did not like the damage parity between a wizard's spell and a same-level fighter's sword swing.  

Perhaps this situation can be viewed by two manners:

1.) Magic is a powerful, creative element that introduces a series of unexpected outcomes wherein the result can exist beyond the realm of what is normally possible.  In this manner, magic effectively breaks the game rules by being classically 'magical,' which is to say it is suited to every situation.  

2.) Magic is a tool that enhances abilities, but it exists within a set of natural or unnatural boundaries, so magical effects are not necessarily better than other, mundane effects.  In this manner, magic loses its classical appeal--it is no longer a universal asset that can solve every problem--and by being tempered, magic becomes balanced, mundane, or a bit of flash amid a plethora of other options.

  
Because unbalanced games are not fun.  They are very frustrating to DM and boring for players like me who like playing a wide variety of character types.  I don't always want to play a caster, which means in games where casters are overpowered my PC didn't contribute.

And you are thinking tolkein, you are going to run into issues since a lot of those characters are mainly along for the ride and don't do much heroic stuff, especially in the hobbit where the dwarf fighters contribute almost nothing compared to bilbo or gandalf.  Try something like X-men or the Avengers instead.  Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, Cyclops, etc. all have a wide variety of abilities, but they all consistently contribute in combat, in exploration, and in social situations. 

Its a lot more fun to play someone like Colossus or Storm than it is to play Pippin or Bofor.
These are good points, and I can agree that a all-in-wonder wizard can overshadow the rest of the party.  

While wizards are potent, earlier editions had some safeguards in place.  For instance, when a DM employed the AD&D initiative system, wizards would cast most of their spells at the end of the round, and any successful attack against a casting wizard would negate the spell before it discharged.  And some spells required multiple rounds, which gave enemies more opportunity to interrupt the spell.  

However, I know AD&D and 3E were not the best systems.  They had several flaws, and at higher levels, wizards and clerics ruled PC parties while the other classes were left to the realm of tangible effect.  By that same token, however, I took exception to 4E's approach to magic; I did not like the damage parity between a wizard's spell and a same-level fighter's sword swing.  

Perhaps this situation can be viewed by two manners:

1.) Magic is a powerful, creative element that introduces a series of unexpected outcomes wherein the result can exist beyond the realm of what is normally possible.  In this manner, magic effectively breaks the game rules by being classically 'magical,' which is to say it is suited to every situation.  

2.) Magic is a tool that enhances abilities, but it exists within a set of natural or unnatural boundaries, so magical effects are not necessarily better than other, mundane effects.  In this manner, magic loses its classical appeal--it is no longer a universal asset that can solve every problem--and by being tempered, magic becomes balanced, mundane, or a bit of flash amid a plethora of other options.

  



Right, assuming the DM used all the rules, AD&D was a bit more "balanced" - there were a lot of risks in being a wizard.  Had to roll to learn a spell, had to have material compoenents, INT did not impact your spells you could learn, as well as a slower progress. 

3rd did away with many of the above, or had work arounds that players could get (such as feats for silent spell casting).  

I agree that 4e wizards still feel a bit "weak" damage wise against single targets.  Against a group of targets, they can outdamage a fighter because they hit more targets, but against a single target their damage starts off leaving a bit to be desired.  Personally I think they could have gone down the path that Wizard daily powers had a much higher damage output, but their encounters and at wills were weaker.  

Alternatively, a good Arcane int based striker class could be a good multiclass with wizard.  
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I'd agree with the OP that the game has become more unbalanced as it sought combat balance.  Many of the checks and balances were streamlined without altering what they balanced.  Simplified in the Fighter and Wizard dynamics.  4e sought to balance combat so much it felt like the non combat balances were just left out.

IMO, Fighters should always be better than Wizards in combat.  Think about it, Fighters are best at what?  Fighting!  Wizards can do lots of cool stuff, why should they also be best in combat?

Back in the day, playing a wizard was hard work.  You'll see a thread complaining about crossbow Wizards right next to one complaining Wizards are too powerful. 

My hope is Next shifts the varying degrees of balance closer to each other without trying to say they are the same. 

I more or less agree with the OP. The idea that classes should balance by level is preposterous, because given the DM and players, their power potential will vary wildly beyond the scope of the numbers. A charismatic player with a Bard is way OP, even moreso than the Mage. A loud ex military player of the fighter is probably going to be a death machine - I've seen it happen multiple times. Bottom line is D&D is set in Feudal Society - the whole point of Feudal Society is unequality, let's get right to the point on that one. Kings>Dukes>Princes>Lords>Knights>Peasants, and so on. Master>Apprentice.

But the solution for AD&D and BECMI was different experience tables. The solution for 3e and 4e is staggard progression. This is particularly shite-tastic with 4e level caps because Wizards/Psions/Clerics =/= Warriors/Rogues. These Supernatural Characters can in theory attain godlike attributes and superpowers through personal study and progression, something no lock picking or sword swinging should ever produce on its own. That means these supernatural classes are geared towards a higher power scope, simply by virtue of their subjects. A modern Analogy is Military Engineering vs. Special Forces training. Special Forces is amazing "kills you dead" stuff, but the Military Engineer wipes out cities and goes to the moon. D&D came on the heels of Vietnam vets, naturally, the Wizard was modeled on the Pencil Pushers and their spells on Carpet Bombs.
Options are Liberating
I started a similar thread, approaching balance from a different angle. In essence, I don't think that choosing a particular class should deprive a player of interesting decisions to make. That doesn't require strict balance in terms of damage output.

Numbers do matter though, since a character with trivial numbers is more likely not to matter. If your character doesn't harm enemies and/or help allies roughly as much as everyone else in combat, you're spending a lot of time doing things that have no effect on the outcome. Similarly, I also care about quality of choices. It's fine with me if someone else can make a fighter that just picks a target and hits for a lot of damage every round and could be played well by anyone. But I don't want that to be the only fighter in the game. I'd like to be able to play a non-caster and make decisions that matter, both in and out of combat.

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.

There's an old saying that truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to make sense. 

Life isn't fair, but "The Game of Life," by Milton-Bradley is fair, because games have to be balanced.

D&D is no exception.  It needs to be balanced, because its a game.   
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I don't think anyone who argues that balance is important thinks that classes should be doing the same amount of damage.   And its fine if one class does more damage, but is easier to hit (glass cannon) or one class does less damage, but to more targets (blaster), one does less but also throws on some conditions (controller) etc.  

It should be sort of close on average for builds that mainly care about damage, but I think the 4E pacifist cleric and bow ranger are balanced against each other.  They are both going to potentially be meaningfully contributing in every combat and this is true even though the ranger normally does the most damage of any class, while the pacifist cleric normally does the least. 

Balance means everyone potentially contributes on a regular basis and every gets to have a couple of things they are pretty good at and usually at least one thing they are the best at and other stuff they can't do well at all.  So in a party with a cleric its probably the best at healing and potentially contributes decently through things like turning undead, casting, and hitting things with its mace.  Buts its not normally better at dealing damage than the ranger or tougher than the fighter or as good at incapacitaing multiple enemies as the wizard.  If it is than they need to have sacrificed something big to get to that point.
Why must everything balance?



Because if one class is objectively better than another, there's no reason for the lesser class to exist.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
There's an old saying that truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to make sense. 

Life isn't fair, but "The Game of Life," by Milton-Bradley is fair, because games have to be balanced.

D&D is no exception.  It needs to be balanced, because its a game.   

IOW, D&D is a game, not a simulation.  Simulations don't have to be, and probably shouldn't be "balanced," because fairness is irrelevent in a simulation.  D&D is a game and therefore has more impetus to be balanced and fair.

A lot of the disagreement comes down to people who think D&D is a simulation vs. those who think it's a game.  I think a lot of this has to do with D&D's historical roots as a descendent of historical wargames, which are simulations AND games.  D&D has come a long way since the wargaming days.

Then we get into exactly HOW to balance the classes, or whatever element you're talking about.  Well, one way NOT to do it is to have "seperate but equal" systems, in other words, magic vs. everything else.  Because we all know how well seperate but equal systems work out ...

That's what I like 4e.  The power system finally balanced the players quite fairly and with ease of understanding and fun.


OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

You need balance because not all good story-tellers are good at adjudicating.

As you said, it's all about the story. All these beautiful mathematical models are here for one thing: spend less time designing encounters and more time thinking about the story. Having rules also limits the number of silly arguments you can have with your players. My worst RPG memories are about arguing for hours with friends. My most frustrating RPG memory is my DM telling me I can't climb up a rope because I'm not a thief.

As a side note, the edition with the most rules is 3rd edition.



Wow, we agree!

madness.

Seriously, though, as much as I enjoyed playing 2e, things like skill systems and balanced mechanics that just work add immensely to how much time a group spends in character, having fun.
Skeptical_Clown wrote:
More sex and gender equality and racial equality shouldn't even be an argument--it should simply be an assumption for any RPG that wants to stay relevant in the 21st century.
104340961 wrote:
Pine trees didn't unanimously decide one day that leaves were gauche.
http://community.wizards.com/doctorbadwolf/blog/2012/01/10/how_we_can_help_make_dndnext_awesome
I'm about to waffle...

Just so I'm totally clear, cos I see a couple of replies about balance in general... I'm talking purely about COMBAT balance. Where every build of every class of equal level has to be balanced point for point in combat. So no one player (for whatever reason) feels they aren't the hero of the adventure (who actually feels like this by the way?). Game balance, in generalities, is of course required, otherwise we can go be 5yr olds again and run around the garden pretending to be cowboys and indians (or whatever equivalent it is these days, Humans and Na'vi I suppose) arguing about who shot who first. I get it. Rules are good. No doubt. Take my money, I buy rules.

What I'd like to suggest, although I can see myself getting shot down very quickly, is that to balance a class with another should occur not only with what that class can do on a grid, in battle, killing things, but also what that class can do out of combat. If you widen the perspective of what can balance, I think you'd get more deviations from the norm and as a result more interesting things to play. Of course, you need to give that class things it can do out of combat if that thing is not going to 'just' be roleplayed with no dice.

Those things are skills. But here's the rub, D&D isn't a skills based system, it's a class based system and from what I read, the community likes the idea of simplifying the skills... so with fewer skills, there will be fewer differences in skill selection between 5 players and this in turn means fewer dice rolls outside of combat. And this then puts all the emphasis back on making sure the game balances in combat. 

I'd also point out that everything that isn't combat is not called roleplay. Roleplaying is the whole session, combat included.

It's often said that rules have nothing to do with how well the roleplaying is. I definitely used to believed that, but I cannot any longer. When a system takes 80% of the session time to run a straight forward combat - and not the big cheese combat at the end of the adventure, it's a goblin ambush - and not noobs looking up rules. It means I have 45 minutes in a whole session to advance story, character, plot, etc... Is it impossible to fix? No, nothing is impossible to fix. But it is the rules of the system that are directly impeding on the time I have in a session to do that other thing we like to do: roleplay. So, yeah - rules can definitely hamper roleplaying. 

It took me about 3 years "roleplaying" (I use the term incorrectly, we played D&D basic like it was Fighting Fantasy - a dungeon crawl where the only thing that mattered was the random loot dropped from the monster) from age 10 to age 13 to feel eventually dare to run a game outside a dungeon. That the players could go in any direction and not through one of two doors from a 5x5 room was terribly scary. Then for the next 5 years hack & slash and big ol' magical items were the bread and butter of the game in high school. I think had 4e hit then, all of my friends and I would've gobbled it up. No-one cared a mote about over-arching plots, character sub-plots, thematic references, foreshadowing, flashbacks... We thought we were very clever when the guest player turned out to be a traitor - again! Those were the days. If you're overly sensitive, you might see a veiled insult there... but truly there isn't one. At different times in a roleplaying hobby you want different things.

I'm long in the tooth... I want Game of Thrones (lots out of combat) not a magical Spartacus (mostly all in combat), but that's just me. :P Thanks for the interesting, different points of view. 
The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules. -Gary Gygax
What I'd like to suggest, although I can see myself getting shot down very quickly, is that to balance a class with another should occur not only with what that class can do on a grid, in battle, killing things, but also what that class can do out of combat.


I'm not sure what you mean here.  Do you mean 1) a class is considered balanced if, even if it comparably weak in combat, it is commensurately strong outside of combat, or 2) classes should be balanced in combat, and they should each be equally effective outside of combat?

with fewer skills, there will be fewer differences in skill selection between 5 players and this in turn means fewer dice rolls


Im not sure why fewer skills mean fewer dice.  I think skills are the equivalent of class features.  As long as you can pick some out-of-combat archetypes, people can distinguish themselves.  The problem is that D&D never gave out these archetypes, so people floundered.  I think Themes, as they've been described, can finally provide the out-of-combat structure that D&D needs.
Doesn't that feel forced? Thematically? Narratively? Aragon == Frodo == Gandalf?


They don't have to be narratively or thematically equal; they have to be mechanically equal.


Balance is a mechanical concern.  Frodo can flail around ineffectually with a sword and get gored by an orc chieftain, but the game should not, as a function of class selection, limit the player to being a tactical liability.  If the player wants to suck at combat mechanically, the option is right there for the taking, but the option also exists (and it makes the game much easier to run for a DM) for Frodo's player to build a character that is competent mechanically but not narratively.


Stat Frodo as a warlord or a bard.  Done.  He gets his little sword and his magic armor, and instead of commanding your Aragorn to take another swing, you get yourself into trouble and squeal, "Strider!," and Aragorn leaps to your rescue.  Mechanically, the attack was granted by a power built into Frodo's character, but that only matters when you remove yourself from the narrative and read character sheets.

Meanwhile Gandalf has no more mechanical impact on the fight than Aragorn or Frodo, but we don't know if that's because he's a really well traveled, thoroughly educated creature with some tricks up his sleeve, or a staggeringly powerful being of pure light who has to hold his own power in check lest his radiance burn out the world.  As long as he never uses his Nuke the Realm from Orbit spell in the story, it doesn't matter whether it's on his character sheet or not.  The character can have power the player isn't allowed to access during the campaign.


"When Friday comes, we'll all call rats fish." D&D Outsider
Well the whole thing goes to how much time each part of the game takes up.

If combat takes up 75% of the session, then every class needs to be balanced in combat.

If exploration takes up 75% of the session, then every class needs a way to climb cliffs, disarm traps, and travel through the swamp.

If social takes up 75% of the session, then every class needs to be balanced in social.

But every group is different an has different proportions. Some are 40%/30%/30%. Others are 70%/30/0%. And then there are some with 10%/30%/60%.

Because every group is different, the base assumption must be that everyone is balanced at everything.

4E tried this by simplifying exploration and interaction into simple skills and rituals that are easy to pick up. Then focusing on combat. It wasn't perfect but it was a good effort. DDN has to do better.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

Yeah, I really don't see any serious advocacy for minutely balanced classes in combat. Maybe people look at the power format in 4E and see that happening- who knows? A visit to the CharOp forums will clear that up though. There are pretty major variations in power, though the greatest extremes of the past are gone.

Again though, check out some of the posts in the thread I linked above. A major point of disagreement for some is balance in *quality* of options. As in, class A can choose abilities every day that can, with some cleverness, transform encounters, while class B has more or less fixed abilities that have mandatory, obvious applications (e.g. check the chest for traps, hit that guy, heal me, etc). Even if class A is not singlehandedly beating the game, class A sounds like a lot more fun for some of us. Class B might contribute, but the player could fall asleep without any appreciable decrease in that contribution.

It's a further headache when class A wears pointy hats or carries mistletoe or prays a lot but I have a different image in my head for what I want from my character. So it would be great if no class is committed by default to a challenging or simple style of play. I don't care if character B is too simple to amuse me as long as his player is having fun. I'd just like to be able to make a version of that character that has more mechanical depth and challenge.

Another part of this is the issue of being able to vary your output. If class X and class Y can both do 100 damage per day, but X gets to choose who takes the damage while Y has a steady output, class X has far more depth AND far more value. Class X can hold back when the fight is under control and can pump out the damage when it's not. Class X is going to be the hero when anything big happens because the game is letting him match his output to the challenge. Again, if it's only a matter of character X versus character Y, whatever, it's cool. Not everyone wants to make all those decisions, and that should be up to the player, as long as the game provides a variety of options and labels them clearly.

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 think the balance needs to be in the contribution made to the team.  No one should feel like they aren't helping. 

I thought Second Winds and Healing Checks to let someone use their Second Winds in 4e were a great idea.  No, it's not on par with Clerical healing but you can help each other.  On the other hand most of the Healers I DMed were innefective at doing damage. 

Everyone should be able to contribute in each way and be better in one area.  I think balance would be reducing what "better" meant while ensuring the core game allowed everyone to contribute.

I think that the obsession with the balance of combat mechanics is a buy product of the video game generation’s obsession with pvp. As an avid gamer of both the video and board game categories I am here to say that this in general this is not necessary. I do not think that all of the classes need to be roughly the same power level; I think that they all need to be useful to the party and make a significant contribution during play. Having said this I think that part of the problem with recent additions of D&D is player power creep, removing things like stuns and level drain so that nothing bad ever happens to the PCs is ridiculous. Monsters can and should have powers and abilities in combat and out that the players do not have and cannot get. Sometimes the monster is hard and eats the players this is a big part of the fun if the dragon never wins what’s the point. It’s hard to roll play fear of something you know can never beat you because combat system balance will not allow it

Doesn't that feel forced? Thematically? Narratively? Aragon == Frodo == Gandalf?


They don't have to be narratively or thematically equal; they have to be mechanically equal.



Or, for that matter, Frodo might suck as a combatant because his player CHOSE to make him that way, and/or chooses to make him in effective in combat.  It's the player's decision, not the system's.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.


It was Story first. The rules were there, and the DM could change any of them. The DM was encouraged to break whatever rule he saw fit for any reason, but most likely he did so to serve the story.

...


It is now about the Rules. The story is there, and the DM is required to come up with that. Be prepared for a long argument if you tell a player he cannot have his AoO. Or that your arch-villain moves 7 squares instead of 6. 




In this vein I have written the worlds most perfect RPG.

Show
[strawman]Just do whatever you want, and sometimes the DM will let it happen. Sometimes not. Better hope he likes you.  [/strawman]

If I'm paying for rules that we are going to use, I'd prefer they be solid rules. If they are solid rules, lets use them as they are written. Only changing them when we all agree something else is better. 

"In a way, you are worse than Krusk"                               " As usual, Krusk comments with assuredness, but lacks the clarity and awareness of what he's talking about"

"Can't say enough how much I agree with Krusk"        "Wow, thank you very much"

"Your advice is the worst"

I think that the obsession with the balance of combat mechanics is a buy product of the video game generation’s obsession with pvp.


Get off my porch you hooligans! Anyway, 4e is terrible for PVP so thats probably not it. 

"In a way, you are worse than Krusk"                               " As usual, Krusk comments with assuredness, but lacks the clarity and awareness of what he's talking about"

"Can't say enough how much I agree with Krusk"        "Wow, thank you very much"

"Your advice is the worst"

There's an old saying that truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to make sense.
Life isn't fair, but "The Game of Life," by Milton-Bradley is fair, because games have to be balanced.
D&D is no exception. It needs to be balanced, because its a game.

IOW, D&D is a game, not a simulation. Simulations don't have to be, and probably shouldn't be "balanced," because fairness is irrelevent in a simulation. D&D is a game and therefore has more impetus to be balanced and fair.
A lot of the disagreement comes down to people who think D&D is a simulation vs. those who think it's a game. I think a lot of this has to do with D&D's historical roots as a descendent of historical wargames, which are simulations AND games. D&D has come a long way since the wargaming days.

Agreed. The "balance" and "realism" debates are valid in wargaming, because historical accuracy is a real issue. D&D has no historical accuracy to speak of, no foundation of realism, and simulates nothing. It's a hodge-podge of every science fiction, fantasy and horror novel or movie that Gygax ever came across. Plus some Greek mythology, I suppose. It's a game. It's not even a very serious game.

Maybe Hasbro should update and re-print Chainmail? Then we could have an historical wargame with optional fantasy elements, and "realism" could matter some of the time, and "balance" be less of an issue. If you're simulating the Battle of Hastings, or Agincourt, for instance, there's no need for each side to be even. Chainmail was a lot of fun, both for actual medieval battles, and for crazier scenarios, like defending a castle from giants.

Then we get into exactly HOW to balance the classes, or whatever element you're talking about. Well, one way NOT to do it is to have "seperate but equal" systems, in other words, magic vs. everything else. Because we all know how well seperate but equal systems work out ...

I'm amazed people even bring up the phrase "separate but equal" when advocating that approach, it carries such a negative connotation.

That's what I like 4e. The power system finally balanced the players quite fairly and with ease of understanding and fun.

Can't over-state the importance of ease of learning. Complex rules are great for the hard-core fans who learn the rules all by heart and "reverse engineer" and re-design them, but there's a lot more of up playing D&D than that.
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