Why balance is so wrong

I'm seeing a lot people post about having problems with balance, but when asked to elaborate we find that its not the balance that bothered them, rather the implementation and how the mechanics got in the way of their role-playing and storytelling.

For instance someone mentioned taking a low powered feature because it matched their idea of what their character was, and that in the game they constantly had to take a back seat.

Others talk about the balance of 4E like was somehow bad, but then when details emerge they are literally talking about the sameness of classes or how improvisations were handled or that it was the fact that the emphasis was on combat rather than interaction or exploration and that it really had nothing at all to do with the balance.

If you can imagine a game of 3.xE that was perfectly mathematically balanced would you play it? I mean if you could put a fighter, cleric, and a wizard in the same party and in each of the three pillars they contributed equally? If you could multiclass without halving the effectiveness of your character? How about if you could improvise without totally destroying your DMs storyline or overshadowing other characters? What if you could role-play or story tell without the rules intruding or getting in the way?

What are your thoughts?
"Unite the [fan] base? Hardly. As of right now, I doubt their ability to unite a slightly unruly teabag with a cup of water."--anjelika
1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
Stormwind Fallacy
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.
Nothing you do should destroy the DMs storyline...ideally.  The system should be able to get his back and allow him to recover from the unexpected and teach him that it is ok for his initial plans to get derailed.  This is a vital skill for a DM.  DMGs need to do a better job at teaching a new DM this and getting his back too.

Perfect balance isn't necessary either.  Even just being within 5% or even 10% and that's close enough so that a lot of imbalance will be hidden by statistical noise and decision-making, particularly if the 5-10% isn't in just one thing but a mess of things all over so it is hard to see (of course, if it is just one thing, it is easier to adjust).

I do think 4E had too much sameness, and not enough emphasis on player creativity, particularly with how the PHB was written -- and yeah, the PHB has to be written to teach new and old players how to approach the game from a player perspective and that includes philosophical underpinnings that need to be woven throughout the book.  I don't think that's necessary at all for balance, it's just a lazy way to do it.

I really want Next to take SOME queues from 4E, even though I dislike 4E.  Page 42 of the DMG as guidelines for improvisation and its effects is a good place to start, as are the rules for monster creation (which should be even easier in 5e given how AC and to-hit is intended to work).  But I don't want to see classes that largely look identical -- use some playtesting and math to get them reasonably balanced with each other even though they use different systems.
Sameness isn't the only way to get Balance - really, it's just an incredibly lazy way to do so.

4e really could have used a massive expansion away from the basic core design, at a much faster rate than it had.

Hell, they could have nailed down their "core" system, and then made a particular point and effort to include in the PH at least one class that dramatically diverged from that system while remaining balanced, just to show that they could.

But hey, "lazy" is how I might describe a lot of decisions in 4e's cycle.
Feedback Disclaimer
Yes, I am expressing my opinions (even complaints - le gasp!) about the current iteration of the play-test that we actually have in front of us. No, I'm not going to wait for you to tell me when it's okay to start expressing my concerns (unless you are WotC). (And no, my comments on this forum are not of the same tone or quality as my actual survey feedback.)
A Psion for Next (Playable Draft) A Barbarian for Next (Brainstorming Still)
My view is very simple.  Many people look at the structure of the new edition, and they either like it or dislike it.  If they like it, they tend to defend it (sometimes without just cause).  If they dislike it, they attack it (sometimes without just cause).

The most common attack (from my observations and opinion) is to equate it to another edition's weakness.  Some see it as a 2e clone and assume it will have the same faults as 2e.  Others see a 3e clone and assume it will have the same faults.  Most don't (want to) see that these assumptions are premature at this point.  For example Vancian casting was broken in the past; however, it does not exclude it from being a fully functional system if the power curve of spells are balanced against other game mechanics.  Sure fighters were inherently weaker in 3e; however, that does not preclude the developers from addressing that issue while maintainng a "retro" feel.  It might have a simple or hard fix; however, most people don't want to depart from their assumptions.

Half (actually I would go with 90%) of the arguments for and against the new edition are pretty baseless due to their dependence on assumptions that haven't been confirmed at this time.  Having said that, it's going to happen despite any effort taken by you, other people or myself.  Since it's going to happen, each individual (at least the ones that are willing to work with WotC) need to take each post with a grain of salt and not get too emotionally invested in that post.  Restating the same thing over and over between two disputing parties is just a waste of time.  Sure, you can try another approach to impart your point of view.  However, you have to let go at a certain point. 

It might seem weird, but in the end, it's just a game.       
It might seem weird, but in the end, it's just a game.       



That's where you're wrong, friend.
It might seem weird, but in the end, it's just a game.       



That's where you're wrong, friend.


FUU WHY DID YOU LINK TVTRO-*clicks link, comes back 5 hours later*
Alright where was I?...oh yeah, TVTROOOOOPES
funny thing about gaming balance. there is no such thing
a mask everyone has at least two of, one they wear in public and another they wear in private.....
Sameness isn't the only way to get Balance - really, it's just an incredibly lazy way to do so.

4e really could have used a massive expansion away from the basic core design, at a much faster rate than it had.

Hell, they could have nailed down their "core" system, and then made a particular point and effort to include in the PH at least one class that dramatically diverged from that system while remaining balanced, just to show that they could.

But hey, "lazy" is how I might describe a lot of decisions in 4e's cycle.

Exactly, a thousand times, yes.
someone mentioned taking a low powered feature because it matched their idea of what their character was, and that in the game they constantly had to take a back seat.

That's often code for "I don't know how to make characters well", but I agree that having clearly better options effectively limits one's options.

Others talk about the balance of 4E like was somehow bad, but then when details emerge they are literally talking about the sameness of classes or how improvisations were handled or that it was the fact that the emphasis was on combat rather than interaction or exploration

The 'balance' I disliked in 4e was that decisions ('role'playing)  didn't seem to actually matter, nor did verisimilitude. Situations and roleplaying should have the possibility to occasionally cause shut-outs (for either side).

in the end, it's just a game.

And 4e seems to be the most Gamist version made yet. But I already have plenty of games I can play; when I play RPG's it's mainly for the Sim aspect.
I think you are right lokiare.  In the abstract, who doesn't want balance.  It's not the number one priority for many people though.  I guess if imbalance got bad enough it could become a high priority but the imperfect balance of earlier editions was not bad enough.  The choices made to balance things in 4e was too great a cost for a lot of us.

I'm not sure if a game can be created that is perfectly balanced but still fun.  I hope.  In theory it seems possible.  I've yet to see it though.  

In 5e, I'm positive that a lot of 4e people will say it's not balanced.  If you use class W and class F then they don't equalize.  I hope though they can be happy by using a set of classes that they feel are balanced.  I will use the imbalanced classes because honestly it will be far better than 3e I'm sure and I could live with 3e balance wise.  I have other complaints with 3e. 

I hope you guys have enough compassion in your hearts that when a player wants to play the "weaker" simple option you let them.  I think they will be able to contribute in your eyes.

 

My Blog which includes my Hobby Award Winning articles.

I think you are right lokiare.  In the abstract, who doesn't want balance.  It's not the number one priority for many people though.  I guess if imbalance got bad enough it could become a high priority but the imperfect balance of earlier editions was not bad enough.  The choices made to balance things in 4e was too great a cost for a lot of us.

I'm not sure if a game can be created that is perfectly balanced but still fun.  I hope.  In theory it seems possible.  I've yet to see it though.  

In 5e, I'm positive that a lot of 4e people will say it's not balanced.  If you use class W and class F then they don't equalize.  I hope though they can be happy by using a set of classes that they feel are balanced.  I will use the imbalanced classes because honestly it will be far better than 3e I'm sure and I could live with 3e balance wise.  I have other complaints with 3e. 

I hope you guys have enough compassion in your hearts that when a player wants to play the "weaker" simple option you let them.  I think they will be able to contribute in your eyes.

 



Hopefully the 'simple' options won't be in any way weaker or inferior so it will go completely unnoticed whether they should be allowed or not...
"Unite the [fan] base? Hardly. As of right now, I doubt their ability to unite a slightly unruly teabag with a cup of water."--anjelika
1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
Stormwind Fallacy
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.


Hopefully the 'simple' options won't be in any way weaker or inferior so it will go completely unnoticed whether they should be allowed or not...



Well I imagine it will be like Essentials.  If you think the Essentials Fighter is balanced with the regular fighter then you will be ok.  If you think they are not balanced or not enough then I think 5e won't deliver.  For me they were plenty balanced.  

I am just not as sensitive to balance issues as others.  I am not completely insensitive and even I think some things in past editions could be fixed.  In some cases, like 1e, I fixed them as DM.  Still I wasn't super bothered by it.  This thirst for the spot light is just not a driving force in my players.  They view themselves as a team and each member contributes to the team goals.  They are satisified with that.  I guess I keep them sufficiently fearing for their lives they don't have time to be worried that character X is a little better than character Y.

 

My Blog which includes my Hobby Award Winning articles.

I think balance between PCs is extremely important.  I disagree with many 4e fans (I differentiate myself from them despite liking 4e because I pretty much like all of the editions the same amount, though for different reasons) about what makes something balanced, however.  

For example, I do not believe that everyone needs to use the same power structure to be balanced.  I do not think character building choices need to be equal in number to be balanced.  I do think static modifiers can balance against unusual powers if done correctly.  I think a pre-4e style Fighter can be balanced against a pre-4e style caster, but it would take some work on both sides of the issue (both making the static bonuses significant and varied and making spells less "better than anything else ever").

Case in point: I think that, at least for the first 3 levels, the Fighter in the playtest is perfectly balanced against the wizard.
I think balance between PCs is extremely important.  I disagree with many 4e fans (I differentiate myself from them despite liking 4e because I pretty much like all of the editions the same amount, though for different reasons) about what makes something balanced, however.  



I hope you are seriously considering doing the playtest.  I think a person who likes all the editions is a valuable input.


For example, I do not believe that everyone needs to use the same power structure to be balanced.  I do not think character building choices need to be equal in number to be balanced.  I do think static modifiers can balance against unusual powers if done correctly.  I think a pre-4e style Fighter can be balanced against a pre-4e style caster, but it would take some work on both sides of the issue (both making the static bonuses significant and varied and making spells less "better than anything else ever").

Case in point: I think that, at least for the first 3 levels, the Fighter in the playtest is perfectly balanced against the wizard.



I hope you are right.  I believe a lot more balance is possible.  Perhaps I am doubtful though that some 4e players will agree it is balanced enough.  Maybe that's where I have doubts.  For me they can achieve the balance just as you say and I'll be happy.



My Blog which includes my Hobby Award Winning articles.

Emerkol,

The fighter and Wizard are 'reasonably' balanced, IMHO, in combat.  Out of combat, the fighter suffers.  My main complaint about 4e was they had the same problem -- we had a bard with rituals, a seeker with alchemy, and two other people.  The bard and seeker stole the spotlight when it came to finding creative solutions, and the other two couldn't really participate.  Which drove them to want to do more combat  (Even though one repeatedly commented that he liked the puzzle solving of OOCombat, but couldn't find avenues for his monk to participate), because they could contribute there.     This is really the reason I think balance is so important -- if you play a fighter and have almost all combat abilities, you'll feel like combat is what you should push for.  Similarly, if you play a bard and suck at combat, you're going to push to avoid combat.    Having both splits the party into two mini-games.
 
The 'balance' I disliked in 4e was that decisions ('role'playing)  didn't seem to actually matter, nor did verisimilitude. Situations and roleplaying should have the possibility to occasionally cause shut-outs (for either side).



Yes, this should likely be put into the category of "don't like encounter focused design" and "Don't think that 4e provided enough options for out of combat".   There were a lot of people who saw rituals as insufficient to allow for planning an encounter so much so that the encounter was a cake walk.  That wasn't my experience, but it was a common complaint about the system and the Mages.
I may be talking for more people than I should but I would say that many 4e fans were disappointed with AEDU to some extent because we wanted to see differing power structures at release. Especially with how experimental late 3.5 was getting. The ToB classes are all "balanced" despite having radically different capabilities (and they are much more varied than say a sorcerer as compared to a wizard). The 3e binder, the warlock, the scout/ranger, and other Tier 3 classes are more or less balanced and all have radically differing mechanics. AEDU was a means to balance, I just wish that only a few of the core 4e classes used it.

I think balance (or at least the ability to achieve balance) is one of the most important things in order for a game to be fun for everyone at the table. I think 4e streamlined things too much though, and I think most 4e fans would have been fine with a variety of balanced class systems.
Let me try a few on-topic (personal) points:

I Like Balance (But It's Not For Its Own Sake)
What do I mean?  I mean that I like balance for other reasons.  I don't want balance just "because it's the right thing to do", or whatever.  I don't buy into that.

Balance Makes My Job Easier
As an (up until recently) "Always DM", I'm interested in character balance because it makes my job easier.  Balanced characters, along with balanced encounter guidelines, make it easier for me to prepare games, with some degree of predictability.  I can aim for a challenge that challenges the group, rather than one specifically geared toward challenging an overpowered character, or one specifically gears toward an underpowered character's few strengths.

Balance Gives the Players More (Real) Choices
By which I simply mean, severely underpowered characters have been "less fun to play" for a lot of my players, in a lot of games.  No matter how much effort I put into fixing that, short of house rules and homebrew material, folks who wound up being just not good at what they WANTED to do wound up wanting to play something different.  This doesn't mean I want exact numerical parity - it means that I don't want the kind of crazy nonsense power disparities we would get in 3e on accident.  Give us a smaller, more tightly bounded, range of capability.

I Want Interesting Options
And those are mostly independant of "balance", but perhaps more important.  "More of the same", level after level, game after game, sessions after session, month after month - that can work for some people.  They want a class that gets everything at level 1, and which only gets "more of the same" as they gain levels.  Neat.  Let them have that.  But also give interesting new stuff to do / to be able to do, if the player wants it.

Do Not Tie This To Specific Archetypes
What do I mean?  I mean all Fighters players are not all simple-character players.  The two groups are distinct, even if they overlap (and they do overlap - though how much of that is because that's what the game taught people, in the past?).  Some Fighter players want interesting (even complex) options.  Some simple-character players want to play a spellcaster (even a Wizard).


Aaaaaand.... I don't know.  I thought I had more to say on balance generally, but I guess I don't.  Balance is cool, but it's a means to an end for me, not an end in itself.
Feedback Disclaimer
Yes, I am expressing my opinions (even complaints - le gasp!) about the current iteration of the play-test that we actually have in front of us. No, I'm not going to wait for you to tell me when it's okay to start expressing my concerns (unless you are WotC). (And no, my comments on this forum are not of the same tone or quality as my actual survey feedback.)
A Psion for Next (Playable Draft) A Barbarian for Next (Brainstorming Still)

In 5e, I'm positive that a lot of 4e people will say it's not balanced.  If you use class W and class F then they don't equalize.  I hope though they can be happy by using a set of classes that they feel are balanced.  I will use the imbalanced classes because honestly it will be far better than 3e I'm sure and I could live with 3e balance wise.  I have other complaints with 3e. 



Now see, I know the designers have guaranteed before that we're not going to like or use everything they hand out to us. But in the end, just how much content will my group trash to get a fair and functional game? Will we really be able to restrict ourselves from major player choices (namely, classes) and still have an enjoyable, lasting experience?

Quite frankly, I could count the number of games that have succeeded in the latter with one hand.

I think you are right lokiare.  In the abstract, who doesn't want balance.  It's not the number one priority for many people though.  I guess if imbalance got bad enough it could become a high priority but the imperfect balance of earlier editions was not bad enough.


In the vacuum of the system as it stands alone?  Lol.  System alone, the imbalance of past editions was really horrible, and that's coming from someone who actually enjoyed playing AD&D 2e, and 3e (I can't recall BECMI so well, it was a while ago afterall).  A skilled DM could fix the issues, if they were so inclined, but throwing a mess in the DM's lap and saying fix our screw-ups just sucks, both for balance and for DMs themselves.

There are a great many problems that can be circumvented by players and DMs having a mature discussion about what the game is going to be like before they ever sit down together to play.

 

The answer really does lie in more options, not in confining and segregating certain options.

 

You really shouldn't speak for others.  You can't hear what someone else is saying when you try to put your words in their mouth.

 

Fencing & Swashbuckling as Armor.

D20 Modern Toon PC Race.

Mecha Pilot's Skill Challenge Emporium.

 

Save the breasts.

@greatFrito
Good points.  I think I mostly agree.  I might caveat it with the point that when the group is viewed as a single entity with a certain strength, the individual members are less important.  You know what your group can achieve.  So you setup challeneges based on that fact.  I'm a bit more sandboxy anyway so I'm definitely looser when worrying about CR or xp value.



In 5e, I'm positive that a lot of 4e people will say it's not balanced.  If you use class W and class F then they don't equalize.  I hope though they can be happy by using a set of classes that they feel are balanced.  I will use the imbalanced classes because honestly it will be far better than 3e I'm sure and I could live with 3e balance wise.  I have other complaints with 3e. 



Now see, I know the designers have guaranteed before that we're not going to like or use everything they hand out to us. But in the end, just how much content will my group trash to get a fair and functional game? Will we really be able to restrict ourselves from major player choices (namely, classes) and still have an enjoyable, lasting experience?

Quite frankly, I could count the number of games that have succeeded in the latter with one hand.




I don't see it as that big an issue.  I can guarantee from day 1 that the warlord with martial healing won't be allowed in my campaign.  And if per day powers are the norm for any other martial class then that class will be booted as well.  So given I will need to do things to make the game viable for me I just don't see the big deal.  Perhaps they need more classes to cover the bases but so what.  It's better to provide a variety so that everyone can get what they want.

My guess is that the majority of people playing 5e will use all the classes.  Because even amongst the 4e playerbase right now I'm sure there are those who think Essentials was fine and 5e will be fine too for them.  I'm just saying that there are some who have an extreme hatred for certain classes and those people should get into games without those things.

I do think they see the class as a module.  Each and every class is optional.  Obviously, you can't say no to classes completely so the class concept is required but no individual class is required.   

My Blog which includes my Hobby Award Winning articles.

 I hope you are seriously considering doing the playtest.  I think a person who likes all the editions is a valuable input.

Oh, I am, absolutely.  I started running it immediately, just about one week after the document was released.  I love it, as do my players--which is actually kind of a shock because half of my players have historically hated D&D and one has generally refused to play any fantasy game at all.  I hear all the time stuff like, "this is awesome--I can't believe this is D&D!"

I hope you are right.  I believe a lot more balance is possible.  Perhaps I am doubtful though that some 4e players will agree it is balanced enough.  Maybe that's where I have doubts.  For me they can achieve the balance just as you say and I'll be happy.

I also doubt that all players will be happy with the balance, but I think it can and will satisfy the majority.

The fighter and Wizard are 'reasonably' balanced, IMHO, in combat.  Out of combat, the fighter suffers.

I've heard that before, but I don't really see why.  Or rather, I don't see why they can't be.  The Fighter could certainly be given some kind of Skill bonus.

Personally, and I know it will never happen, I would have liked the Rogue and Fighter to be merged into a single class.
I think you are right lokiare.  In the abstract, who doesn't want balance.  It's not the number one priority for many people though.  I guess if imbalance got bad enough it could become a high priority but the imperfect balance of earlier editions was not bad enough.


In the vacuum of the system as it stands alone?  Lol.  System alone, the imbalance of past editions was really horrible, and that's coming from someone who actually enjoyed playing AD&D 2e, and 3e (I can't recall BECMI so well, it was a while ago afterall).  A skilled DM could fix the issues, if they were so inclined, but throwing a mess in the DM's lap and saying fix our screw-ups just sucks, both for balance and for DMs themselves.



I'm just saying that 4e fixed balance a lot.  No one argues that.  And yet, half the D&D base chose to put up with 3e's imbalance and stay with that edition or migrate to a very tiny bit more balanced Pathfinder.   So for them the balance was imperfect but not game breaking.  

If feeling useful to the team was the measure of balance, I definitely never saw it.  If you wanted to compute kill count or something like that then maybe some classes would win out over others.   The fighter would probably beat the rogue and monk for example.  In my campaigns though fighters were extremely vicious characters that killed a lot of things.  Maybe I DM'd the game as it was intended to be DM'd.  In 3e, the wealth and magic was appropriate.  The 5 minute work day was not tolerated.  Enemies fought with the same tactics the players used.   None of those things is a houserule.  I would say that they are all pretty much a given and require very little effort from the DM.   

At high levels, I can build a fighter than does almost 300 hit points EVERY SINGLE ROUND.  He can fly and turn invisbile at will.  He can throw up an anti-magic shell at least once per day.  He has over 400 hundred hit points.  He is immune to save or die.  I mean thats just a smidgen of what he can do.  I just don't buy that that guy is not contributing in a campaign.  





 

My Blog which includes my Hobby Award Winning articles.


Personally, and I know it will never happen, I would have liked the Rogue and Fighter to be merged into a single class.



During 2e, I remember a DM who made the Thief a subclass of Fighter in the same way Paladin and Ranger were subclasses.   I thought it a good idea.



My Blog which includes my Hobby Award Winning articles.

Forum ate my post. Essentially, the jist of my post was I want not just balance in power, which I think is important, to make sure that no class just overshadows another. But I don't think it's too important to be exact in balance, since there's enough variance that if one class isn't vastly more powerful, everyone will get to shine.

What is more important, in my mind, is that each class gets meaningful options in each of the three pillars of D&D. There don't need to be an equal number of options, but just that each class does get options. Roleplay is more of a player thing, so it's not really on the table with reguards to design, too much. Exploration seems to have been taken care of, by decoupling skills from class and INT score, and by flattening the power curve. But Combat is where the problem seems to be. I know, whenever I played a fighter in 3.5, I'd play the Exploration Toolkit, carrying anything with situational or utilitarian use, because I had the strength to, but more because I felt like my options in combat were so limited, I might as well not even be there. It was my way of compensating, in a way. I've already seen a good house-rule for combat maneuvers, which I think could be good for this, especially if fighters get some natural bonuses to them (or the option to get them, as a theme).

Lastly, I remember that in 3.5, one of the things that supposedly was meant to balance fighters' options was that they could be archers, or swordsmen, or Sword-and-board Knights, or anything really, and they'd get extra feats to make sure that they could specialize in whatever they chose to do. This made fighters cool to design, but it did not fix the problems with playing them in combat, that I had, and so I hope they don't go down that road again. At least not seeing that as a 'fix,' and calling it a day.

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With regards to the pillars, don't you think Avric that 5e is on the right track in this regard with backgrounds and themes? 

I think I'm happier with fewer manuevers.  I want a fighters basic attack to be his bread and butter damage.  But I don't mind some manuevers.  So where do I fall?  I suppose I'll wait and see what they put out next. 

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I believe that balance exists in one way or another.  Perhaps balance to you is how the players fit within their place in the world.  Perhaps not.  Back on track, we rationally try to balance out things on some level.  For example, I doubt a DM would permit an extreme math exploiter to join a level 2 team when his character is somehow a 6d10 dealing Gatling gun for as long as possible.  If there wasn't at least a little bit of balance, some people would steal the show from others.  However, you as the DM have the power to put a firm foot down and call out the nightmarishly broken (within reason of course).  Now, we've encountered broken in other games.  This trope (I apologize for breaking out Tropes again!  Please don't burn me to a stake!) is called, "Nintendo Hard".  
(Warning: TV Tropes link!)  However, if this doesn't break the story itself and the characters around you, then there shouldn't be a huge problem.  I can forgive a min-maxer if their RP is interesting and engaging (even if they plow through an army of monsters way too quickly.)  But, if they use their power to overshadow and make others feel lower?  Oh, it's on!  *focuses guns on munchkin*  So, balance helps.  It can be there to push you in the right direction so you're not an insane demi-god while your friends are lame.  Used in the wrong way, you're boxed into feeling way too similar. (Thus why I wasn't into 4th ed originally, but warmed up to it later on.)  Balance should be an option as a base, then go from there.  Besides, as long as you can create a character that can cooperate in a roleplaying team, then balance shouldn't be the worst problem.  This is a game about roleplay, not balance play after all ;)  So, if you don't need it have fun... whatever, man!  Forget the balance!  If you require balance to keep the game sane for you, go for it!  Modules for all!  (I swear, that's becoming a catch phrase.)

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Some good pointers for the fellow hobbyist!:

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Sometimes perfect balance makes for crappy story...
Sometimes perfect balance makes for crappy story...


Sometimes imbalance makes for a crappy story, too.
Sometimes partial balance makes for a crappy story, too.
Sometimes dice rolls make for a crappy story.
Sometimes D&D makes for a crappy story.

Which is just to say: So?
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Sometimes perfect balance makes for crappy story...


Sometimes imbalance makes for a crappy story, too.
Sometimes partial balance makes for a crappy story, too.
Sometimes dice rolls make for a crappy story.
Sometimes D&D makes for a crappy story.

Which is just to say: So?



I have never in my life seen or heard of 'perfect balance makes for crappy story...'.

Can you please give me an example or real situation (so I can tear it down and show you that it wasn't the balance that had anything to do with it)?
"Unite the [fan] base? Hardly. As of right now, I doubt their ability to unite a slightly unruly teabag with a cup of water."--anjelika
1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
Stormwind Fallacy
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.
Sometimes perfect balance makes for crappy story...



Depending on the story you want to tell, sure.

In my experience, those stories don't tend to make for good games.

Unless you are using a definition of "perfect balance" that none of us advocting balance mean.
Sometimes perfect balance makes for crappy story...


Sometimes imbalance makes for a crappy story, too.
Sometimes partial balance makes for a crappy story, too.
Sometimes dice rolls make for a crappy story.
Sometimes D&D makes for a crappy story.

Which is just to say: So?


Actually, I think the real truth is that balance doesn't make a STORY good or bad.  D&D is not a story though.  D&D is a game system that can be used to adjudicate the actions of characters who may be participating in a story.

There are a great many problems that can be circumvented by players and DMs having a mature discussion about what the game is going to be like before they ever sit down together to play.

 

The answer really does lie in more options, not in confining and segregating certain options.

 

You really shouldn't speak for others.  You can't hear what someone else is saying when you try to put your words in their mouth.

 

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Balance in D&D is a red herring.
The thing with a balanced system is...if you want to tell a story ith imbalance...you can.


In 4e you can sink you main stat, pick linquist a number of times, not pic a paragon path or epic destiny (they are labaled as optional) and play as a weak character in a group of heroes. This is all without any changes to 4e's system.


As long as there is choice there is room for imbalance. Even if characters had no build options and were perfectly balanced, a player could still decided to make intentionally bad choices in combat, or exploration, or puzzles, or conversation.  



No game is 100% balanced, its impossible. That doesn't make  balance something that shouldn't be strived for. Just because no version of D&D will appeal to 100% of its fan base, dosen't mean they can't try to please as many as possible.  

I'm seeing a lot people post about having problems with balance, but when asked to elaborate we find that its not the balance that bothered them, rather the implementation and how the mechanics got in the way of their role-playing and storytelling.

Others talk about the balance of 4E like was somehow bad, but then when details emerge they are literally talking about the sameness of classes or how improvisations were handled or that it was the fact that the emphasis was on combat rather than interaction or exploration and that it really had nothing at all to do with the balance.

What are your thoughts?

I think there may be some communication issues going on here.  Balance is a clear positive, and I don't think people are comfortable lining up directly in opposition to it, even when that's what they really feel.  So, you have side-ways complaints about balance.  It's not "we want wizards to be more powerful than fighters, because someone has to suck for someone else to be awesome" it's "classes feel the same" or "fighters casting spells breaks my verisimilitude" or "fighter dailies are too narrativist for me."  But, whatever the the oblique angle you come at it from, the demand is always the same:  make the game less balanced, make it broken like it was at it's most-broken.   

WotC would probably have an easier time servicing their customers if they got clearer feedback.  Some players /want/ a game that - as Monte Cook put it - "rewards system mastery," one that is a complex minefield of under-powered trap options that you need to navigate and dig up in order to find the overpowered jewels hidden there.  The object of the game is to get better at the game than the next guy.  Balance doesn't make it easier or harder to do that, but it does make the rewards for doing it a lot less than they could be.

System mastery isn't easy or quick to come by, either, so each new edition is a major setback.  You invest years of time and countless braincells to learning, understanding, memorizing, colating, and generally making the system your bitch, and then, overnight, they take that all away from you and you have to start over - on virtually the level of a newb!  That hurts, WotC.  And, 5e isn't going to make it better.  Just start supporting 3.5 again, it's the system-mastery deluxe dream edition, and it's not going away, so you might as well make some coin on it.  Re-print AD&D for guys having their mid-life crises, and make your money off them, as well.    

 

 

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What is more important, in my mind, is that each class gets meaningful options in each of the three pillars of D&D.

That would be awesome.  And better-balanced even than 4e, which was well-balanced mainly in combat (very important, but not the whole story).

Roleplay is more of a player thing, so it's not really on the table with reguards to design, too much.

Roleplay happens in all three pillars.  A better name for this pillar is Social or Interaction.  And, yes, there's plenty of room for mechanics and keeping all characters relevant.

Exploration seems to have been taken care of, by decoupling skills from class and INT score, and by flattening the power curve. But Combat is where the problem seems to be.

Combat is the one pillar where 4e managed pretty good balance using common advancement structure and roles, similar mechanisms could be used in 5e.  Exploration, OTOH, some classes got basically nothing, while others got useful skills and others got usefull skills, out-of-combat-aplicable utilities, and free rituals, 5e would need to innovate for that one.

Lastly, I remember that in 3.5, one of the things that supposedly was meant to balance fighters' options was that they could be archers, or swordsmen, or Sword-and-board Knights, or anything really, and they'd get extra feats to make sure that they could specialize in whatever they chose to do. This made fighters cool to design, but it did not fix the problems with playing them in combat, that I had, and so I hope they don't go down that road again. At least not seeing that as a 'fix,' and calling it a day.

Agreed.  The 3.x fighter was a very nicely-done class, and you could custom-fit it to a martial concept.  In actual play, though, it was too often overshadowed by it's companions.

 

 

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So, you have side-ways complaints about balance.  It's not "we want wizards to be more powerful than fighters, because someone has to suck for someone else to be awesome" it's "classes feel the same" or "fighters casting spells breaks my verisimilitude" or "fighter dailies are too narrativist for me."  But, whatever the the oblique angle you come at it from, the demand is always the same:  make the game less balanced, make it broken like it was at it's most-broken.  



This is a blatant falsehood Tony, in that you say that anyone who doesn't kneel at the altar of balance just wants 'the game less balanced'...THEN you go on to add, even more egregiously, 'make it broken like it was at it's most-broken'.  A little less blanket generalization sure would be nice.

"Lightning...it flashes bright, then fades away.  It can't protect, it can only destroy."

I actually disagree; while I think that there are probably some people like that, I think that in general what's more common is that people see decisions that were made in certain editions (primarily 4e) that they for whatever reason didn't like, observe that balance was one of the contributing factors to these decisions being made, and conclude that pursuit of balance isn't worth it. Taken to an extreme, this manifests in opinions along the lines of "the game is better if it's systematically unbalanced because you can tell stories where someone is more powerful than someone else", which are clearly absurd. (Not because that's not a valid way to want to tell a story, but because - and this is an opinion, but I think it's a reasonable one - it's better to start from a place where things are relatively level and let people who want that kind of story choose it through things intentionally designed to represent differences in power, such as being different levels, insteady of building in that everyone like this is going to be more powerful than everyone like that.)

There's also a lot of misunderstanding about what "balance" means. It doesn't mean that everyone has to use the same mechanics, or everyone has to be capable of everything. 4e happened to choose for a long time to have everyone use a pretty uniform set of mechanics (which appears even more uniform because of its consistant formatting), which to be fair does assist in balancing, but which isn't required. It doesn't mean that everyone has to always be doing to same amount of damage, and 4e - while it may have gone too far in some people's eyes - actually attempted to make sure that everyone had a unique way to contribute even if they weren't all doing the same amount of damage, by codifying roles.

Classes can look totally different while still being approximately balanced against each other. (And classes can look very similar and be not at all balanced against each other 3.5 Healer and 3.5 Cleric, for example, use similar mechanics but one is among the most powerful classes in the game and one is... decidedly not.) For example, people who spend a lot of time examining this kind of stuff might agree that, for example, in 3.5 the Rogue, the Barbarian, the Warmage and the Warlock are approximately in the same band of power level, but they're clearly very different designs. The rogue is a weapon-using class with high skill points and a damage bonus based on tactical positioning. The barbarian is a weapon-using class with middling skill points and few class skills with a limited-use power-up ability. The Warmage is a spontaneous caster that can cast a large but limited number of spells each day, and that knows its entire spell list, which is broken down into different levels which are unlocked as it levels up and which is made up mostly of damage-dealing attack spells with a small number of control or support abilities. Additionally, the class possesses the ability to enhance spells in specific ways once a day. The warlock gains a limited number of spell-like abilities it can use at will, many of which modularly modify an at-will simple ray attack. All four of these classes use somewhat different mechanics (aside from mechanics that are universal to the system), but all are basically balanced against each other. (Even if it was important, quantifiable, or a good idea, any sort of pursuit of razor balance in a game like D&D is largely wasted anyway, since unless the system is extremely restrictive individual build choices are going to vary a lot anyway, and the utility of various options varies from campaign to campaign.)
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So, you have side-ways complaints about balance.  It's not "we want wizards to be more powerful than fighters, because someone has to suck for someone else to be awesome" it's "classes feel the same" or "fighters casting spells breaks my verisimilitude" or "fighter dailies are too narrativist for me."  But, whatever the the oblique angle you come at it from, the demand is always the same:  make the game less balanced, make it broken like it was at it's most-broken.  



This is a blatant falsehood Tony, in that you say that anyone who doesn't kneel at the altar of balance just wants 'the game less balanced'...THEN you go on to add, even more egregiously, 'make it broken like it was at it's most-broken'.  A little less blanket generalization sure would be nice.



So what is your opinion on that (not just 'hey your wrong', but 'here's how I see it.')...
"Unite the [fan] base? Hardly. As of right now, I doubt their ability to unite a slightly unruly teabag with a cup of water."--anjelika
1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
Stormwind Fallacy
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.
But hey, "lazy" is how I might describe a lot of decisions in 4e's cycle.



Sadly, it's seeming to describe a lot of the decisions in Next's development as well.
Good post Tony except for that very last sentence.  That was a snipe and unfair.  Some people want a simpler game that is more DM adjudication.   They aren't arguing for a return to THAC0 or for lots of weird tables and weirder dice rolls.   


 I think there may be some communication issues going on here.  Balance is a clear positive, and I don't think people are comfortable lining up directly in opposition to it, even when that's what they really feel.  So, you have side-ways complaints about balance.  It's not "we want wizards to be more powerful than fighters, because someone has to suck for someone else to be awesome" it's "classes feel the same" or "fighters casting spells breaks my verisimilitude" or "fighter dailies are too narrativist for me."  But, whatever the the oblique angle you come at it from, the demand is always the same:  make the game less balanced, make it broken like it was at it's most-broken.   



If you told me that fighters had to have daily powers to be balanced then yes I'd mark balance off my list of wanna be's.  I don't deny it.  I would like balance though if I don't have to sacrifice what makes the game fun for me.  I'm leaving it up to the designers to give it a try.  I do think that for those who are strict about balance 5e won't quite measure up.  It will still though be the second most balanced edition of D&D they know.  So it won't be as bad in their eyes as 3e.  But I'm sure many people will say playing a simple character gimps you.  Or this or that option is bad.  Or choosing this theme and that one is overpowered.  Bound to happen.


WotC would probably have an easier time servicing their customers if they got clearer feedback.  Some players /want/ a game that - as Monte Cook put it - "rewards system mastery," one that is a complex minefield of under-powered trap options that you need to navigate and dig up in order to find the overpowered jewels hidden there.  The object of the game is to get better at the game than the next guy.  Balance doesn't make it easier or harder to do that, but it does make the rewards for doing it a lot less than they could be.


I agree that this is wildly popular.  I think though that it can have a smaller range and still be satisfying.  As long as optimized is only 10% better thats ok for me.  Most of my non-optimizing players aren't watching that close anyway.  They are definitely capable of optimizing if they wanted to do that.   If I have a kid in the game he plays simple and loves it.


System mastery isn't easy or quick to come by, either, so each new edition is a major setback.  You invest years of time and countless braincells to learning, understanding, memorizing, colating, and generally making the system your bitch, and then, overnight, they take that all away from you and you have to start over - on virtually the level of a newb!  That hurts, WotC.  And, 5e isn't going to make it better.  Just start supporting 3.5 again, it's the system-mastery deluxe dream edition, and it's not going away, so you might as well make some coin on it.  Re-print AD&D for guys having their mid-life crises, and make your money off them, as well.    


I disagree that they should just print 1e,2e,3e and 4e.   Because if they do I'm probably going to buy from a third party.  I want a game that is half way between 1e/2e and 3e.   I want more options than the earlier editions.  I want more DM empowerment.   I want flavorful open ended spells.  I want a harder game though.  3e and 4e catered to the "make it easier crowd" (which may be smart in fact).  I want real level drain and rust monsters etc...

So now 3e won't give me that.   1e/2e is fiddly math and lacks a lot of options.   I want the streamlined play of a 1e/2e retroclone with the options of 3e.

I think the 5e bullseye is right on my head.  I think it's modularity will cater to me desire to houserule and innovate.   I will be able to build my version 2.5e from the rules.

The question is can other people who want other things build their own games.   I think 3e people definitely will have that ability.   I think 4e will be able to get 75% of what they want.  I fear though that some things like a common structure for all classes won't be possible.   Maybe they will create 20 classes and 10 of them will be AEDU-like.  That might make it possible.  I wouldn't be against this idea.







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