Understanding Balance

A few threads and posters1 have been posting criticisms of balanced gameplay. Those criticisms appear to be based on a misunderstanding of what balance is all about, so rather than hijack those threads, I thought I'd take a minute to talk about what balance means, as I understand it.

First, balance is not it's own reward. While producing a balanced game is an interesting challenge and satisfying in and of itself, we don't want balance just as an offering to the Gods of Mathematics. We want it for the goals it promotes (more below).

Second, balance is not the same as "perfect balance." No one wants all classes to be exactly equal, to use exactly the same advancement, or to have exactly the same options. This wouldn't be fun, and it would be next to impossible--nearly everyone who plays DnD likes character choice and customization, and the challenge of balance grows proportional to the number of character options, which in turn grows factorially with the number of individual game elements that can be combined.

Balance is a tool to reduce work. Some of us (including most folks posting on this board) have plenty of time to build characters and understand character tiers. But many don't. Playing D&D requires enough effort without needed to "police" items that can negatively impact the game.

Balance is a tool to reduce frustration. Some people do enjoy playing underpowered characters as a self-imposed challenge. But by and large, players with characters significantly weaker than others--in combat, out of combat, or both--don't have fun. This is true when the charcter never gets to shine, and it's also true when the player has to wait 20 minute doing nothing while other characters are "shining."

Edit, per poster suggestions: Balance is a tool to make sure you can play what you want to play. Players interested in a particular combat paradigm, or a particular roleplaying archetype, should never be forced to choose between playing a powerful character and their desired character.

So, to summarize: when a player says that he wants the next edition of D&D to be "balanced," he probably2 means a game that accomplishes these four goals:

1) All characters spend a roughly equal amount of time3 in the "spotlight," being the important character/problem solver. This doesn't have to be a perfect division, but it should be pretty consistent.
2) Characters should never be completely sidelined. Every character should have options to contribute to every challenge, even if those options aren't as powerful or varied as the character in the "spotlight."
3) 1) and 2) should apply to all reasonable builds and all characters; newbies and "role-not-roll" players should not be able to accidentally make characters so poor that those guidelines don't apply.
4) 1) and 2) should apply to all reasonable builds even if they are in the party with another character that is highly optimized; no amount of "munchkinry" or "min-maxing" should allow other characters to be made useless.

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1 Several of those posters are on my ignore list, by the way--you know who you are.
2 I feel confident that I am speaking for a large group of players, but I know that I certainly don't speak for all of them; if you have a different view of balance, reply and share!
3 "Time" has a double meaning, referring to time both in and out of character. It's problematic if the wizard beats 4 encounter four every 1 that the fighter is the star combatant. It's equally problematic if the wizard's spells take 10 minutes to resolve and the fighter's attacks take 1 minute to roll, even if those attacks are individually more powerful that the wizard's spells.
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Balance is not a two-legged stool.
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A few threads and posters1 have been posting criticisms of balanced gameplay. Those criticisms appear to be based on a misunderstanding of what balance is all about, so rather than hijack those threads, I thought I'd take a minute to talk about what balance means, as I understand it.

First, balance is not it's own reward. While producing a balanced game is an interesting challenge and satisfying in and of itself, we don't want balance just as an offering to the Gods of Mathematics. We want it for the goals it promotes (more below).

Second, balance is not the same as "perfect balance." No one wants all classes to be exactly equal, to use exactly the same advancement, or to have exactly the same options. This wouldn't be fun, and it would be next to impossible--nearly everyone who plays DnD likes character choice and customization, and the challenge of balance grows proportional to the number of character options, which in turn grows factorially with the number of individual game elements that can be combined.

Balance is a tool to reduce work. Some of us (including most folks posting on this board) have plenty of time to build characters and understand character tiers. But many don't. Playing D&D requires enough effort without needed to "police" items that can negatively impact the game.

Balance is a tool to reduce frustration. Some people do enjoy playing underpowered characters as a self-imposed challenge. But by and large, players with characters significantly weaker than others--in combat, out of combat, or both--don't have fun. This is true when the charcter never gets to shine, and it's also true when the player has to wait 20 minute doing nothing while other characters are "shining."

So, to summarize: when a player says that he wants the next edition of D&D to be "balanced," he probably2 means a game that accomplished these four goals:

1) All characters spend a roughly equal amount of time3 in the "spotlight," being the important character/problem solver. This doesn't have to be a perfect division, but it should be pretty consistent.
2) Characters should never be completely sidelined. Every character should have options to contribute to every challenge, even if those options aren't as powerful or varied as the character in the "spotlight."
3) 1) and 2) should apply to all reasonable builds and all characters; newbies and "role-not-roll" players should not be able to accidentally make characters so poor that those guidelines don't apply.
4) 1) and 2) should apply to all reasonable builds even if the are in the party with another character that is highly optimized; no amount of "munchkinry" or "min-maxing" should allow other characters to be made useless.

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1 Several of those posters are on my ignore list, by the way--you know who you are.
2 I feel confident that I am speaking for a large group of players, but I know that I certainly don't speak for all of them; if you have a different view of balance, reply and share!
3 "Time" has a double meaning, referring to time both in and out of character. It's problematic if the wizard beats 4 encounter four every 1 that the fighter is the star combatant. It's equally problematic if the wizard's spells take 10 minutes to resolve and the fighter's attacks take 1 minute to roll, even if those attacks are individually more powerful that the wizard's spells.



To sum up. It means that the scale starts even at the beginning of the day, and while it may tilt a bit one way or the other throughout the day, it ends up even again at the end. It's about there being an expected power curve within the game and having everything fall within a certain margin of error in that curve.

I fear this is going to fall on deaf ears, Rey. Those of us know know this already... well, know this already, and those who don't understand this by and large refuse to understand it, and will ignore you anyway. 

Best of luck, though. 
I fear this is going to fall on deaf ears, Rey. Those of us know know this already... well, know this already, and those who don't understand this by and large refuse to understand it, and will ignore you anyway. 

Best of luck, though. 



Yeah, those are the same people who think that balance means 100% equal, and refuse to acknowledge anyone who says otherwise.
1) All characters spend a roughly equal amount of time3 in the "spotlight," being the important character/problem solver. This doesn't have to be a perfect division, but it should be pretty consistent. 2) Characters should never be completely sidelined. Every character should have options to contribute to every challenge, even if those options aren't as powerful or varied as the character in the "spotlight." 3) 1) and 2) should apply to all reasonable builds and all characters; newbies and "role-not-roll" players should not be able to accidentally make characters so poor that those guidelines don't apply. 4) 1) and 2) should apply to all reasonable builds even if the are in the party with another character that is highly optimized; no amount of "munchkinry" or "min-maxing" should allow other characters to be made useless.




1) Ideally, yes.  Each character should have roughly an equal opportunity to shine.  The rogue disarming traps should be useful to the group, not subsumed by the cleric just saying "take the trap damage and I'll heal it" (like what happens in Pathfinder with no 'ability damage/instant kill effects' and of course the horrible 'channel energy' super healing).  Opportunity isn't always realized however, not to mention spotlight time is usually dominated by well designed character stories.  If a character has options and chooses to build a shoddy background, take no facilitating RP skills, etc then they shouldn't get equal storytime to the chars that do.

2) Again, they should have options, but if they choose not to take them in lieu of being one dimensional, tough cheese for them.  As to always contributing in every challenge, no way.  Sometimes you get a bad matchup.  That is where good char design will give you some secondary options to facilitate rather than sit like a bump on the log.

3) Players, not systems, are responsible for this.  If you want an option, buy it.  If you don't, then that is your option.  But don't cry when your choice didn't pan out.  Play better, buy smarter, and step up your game.

4) And this is a GM responsibility.  If you allow every splat book, and you allow players to bring any super optimized build and combo into the game, that is precisely what will happen (unless the alternative is some generic 'everyone is equally powered' nanny system).


Balance is fine in the sense that the math is in the same ballpark for ranking variable effects (or whether effects trigger).  It is not fine when variety is made illusion so that everyone automatically succeeds because they CAN'T mess up, or when it does something like 'gamist magic' that reduces interesting and unique game effects into a simple amount of comparable generic damage.

I'd trade it all for a little more! Grognard? Is that French for awesome?


Balance is fine in the sense that the math is in the same ballpark for ranking variable effects (or whether effects trigger).  It is not fine when variety is made illusion so that everyone automatically succeeds because they CAN'T mess up, or when it does something like 'gamist magic' that reduces interesting and unique game effects into a simple amount of comparable generic damage.

I'm trying to figure out what this has to do with my post--or, frankly, what this has to do with everything else is your post, which was up to the point of the above quote well reasoned (even if I disagreed). "Variety is made illusion?" "reduces...unique game effects... to generic damage?" What?

But, more generally, to answer your post, I'm just going to quote my OP:

Balance is a tool to reduce work. Some of us (including most folks posting on this board) have plenty of time to build characters and understand character tiers. But many don't. Playing D&D requires enough effort without needed to "police" items that can negatively impact the game.



Making the game incredibly work intensive will drive away the casual gamers that are the lifeblood of this game--both because they become the serious gamers, and because they pay money that pays the designers. Just because you have learned how to manage an unbalanced system doesn't mean that people can, should, or want to do the same.
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I couldn't agree more, Reyemile.  

Just because a system has some depth doesn't mean that it should mandate or encourage one character to completely dominate everyone else at some aspect of the game.  It's fine if someone who knows the system can crank out a few extra bonuses that makes her objectively better than any other character; it's not fine if that character makes every other character unnecessary (or liabilities) because anything required to challenge that character would completely overwhelm the "normal" characters.

It's pretty bad design if there's any area where only one character gets to play at all; early editions of Shadowrun were terrible about this, with computer hacking that only one character could participate in and which might take an hour or longer to resolve.  It's especially bad if one character is the only one who matters in combat, though.

Although everyone is pretty quick to agree that the game shouldn't be all combat with no other skills or social interactions, combat is traditionally an area which unites many different types of player and where all of the players can work together toward a shared goal.  If a new player can't contribute because he was unaware that class X wasn't as impressive as the fluff made it sound, you can't blame the player just because he didn't want to sit down for a few hours and extrapolate mathematical models before rolling up a character to play with his friends.

The metagame is not the game.

I'm trying to figure out what this has to do with my post--or, frankly, what this has to do with everything else is your post, which was up to the point of the above quote well reasoned (even if I disagreed). "Variety is made illusion?" "reduces...unique game effects... to generic damage?" What?



I'll try to clarify it into two main points.  The first is that I am fine with balance as long as it doesn't come at the cost of losing real variety in choice.  If you give me the choice between being able to cast spells that say charm enemies or being able to swing my sword to hit them, I have a real option.  If instead you say my charm spell does the same as swinging my sword, I have no real option even if you allow me to still symbolically call it charming or swinging a sword.  And often when we hear discussions about balance what is often really being hinted at is what impact magic will have in the game.  Will it operate on its own system or will it be reduced to an equivolent melee action?  The second point was that in regards to magic, much of it in the most recent edition lost any uniqueness and for the most part became a flavored means of doing the same thing (damage output).  It would target different defenses, was more typically AoE, and a few other things but it rarely truly allowed for the size of difference I would seek.

I'd trade it all for a little more! Grognard? Is that French for awesome?

I'm trying to figure out what this has to do with my post--or, frankly, what this has to do with everything else is your post, which was up to the point of the above quote well reasoned (even if I disagreed). "Variety is made illusion?" "reduces...unique game effects... to generic damage?" What?



I'll try to clarify it into two main points.  The first is that I am fine with balance as long as it doesn't come at the cost of losing real variety in choice.  If you give me the choice between being able to cast spells that say charm enemies or being able to swing my sword to hit them, I have a real option.  If instead you say my charm spell does the same as swinging my sword, I have no real option even if you allow me to still symbolically call it charming or swinging a sword.  And often when we hear discussions about balance what is often really being hinted at is what impact magic will have in the game.  Will it operate on its own system or will it be reduced to an equivolent melee action?  The second point was that in regards to magic, much of it in the most recent edition lost any uniqueness and for the most part became a flavored means of doing the same thing (damage output).  It would target different defenses, was more typically AoE, and a few other things but it rarely truly allowed for the size of difference I would seek.

Okay. I understand you now.

None of those things have anything to do with balance; you can easily have a balanced game that doesn't do any of those things you criticize.

Also, for the record, 4e doesn't do any of those things. But that belongs in a different thread. 
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Nice summary.  I agree with most of it.  I'm a bit shakey on #3.

Here some thoughts I've been having on game design of late.

If every class was fully specced with all options defined within that class balance would be easier to achieve.  4e took a stab at this approach and except for feats pretty much achieved it.  I found though this less fun.  I actually enjoyed the fact that a lot of the "powers" in 3e were acquirable by numerous classes.  In fact when looking at Hackmaster 5e, I liked the fact they used build points and let you buy a skill, a feat, or an ability score increase each time you leveled.  Everything had a price and you picked and chose as you leveled.   Such a system is I realize fraught with peril though when it comes to experts vs new players.  Still it is a lot of fun.

5e I think is doing some things that perhaps will help.  I think so.  They are putting all the combat "strength" in the class.  No feat/power is going to make you objectively stronger in some significant way.  Themes/Feats will provide you will some options for flavor.  I'm sure some will consider having those options a distinct advantage.  But I believe the developers are intending that having a theme or not won't affect power enough to matter.  Thats a significant design decision.

They have also mostly silo'd skills into backgrounds.  So the non-combat stuff is it's own thing.  You can't very easily spend more on combat or more on non-combat.   As you advance you basically go up equally on both sides.   Now there may be some classes where that balance is tweaked.  Rogues may be a little better at skills and a bit less better at fighting.  But that difference won't change as they level.  It is what it is.  If you want to be combat king you don't pick Rogue.  But the Rogue is still viable and interesting in combat.  In fact I like this rogue better than most.

So I believe they are thinking about what you are thinking about.  I admit I play with players who are all pretty competent.  Some min/max a bit more than others but nothing is terribly out of balance skill wise.  So it is not a big concern of mine.  But I'm fine with 5e's approach.  I still think as a player I'd probably prefer Hackmaster 5e's.



 
I agree with Rey in this matter. I want my players who minmax to have an edge, but not to the point where everyone else feels worthless. That just sucks. I also like the idea of people being able to play how they want rather than focusing on minmaxing... but, masterfully crafted fluff and mechanics that are tied together is something I hope DNDN can do. I don't need it in my games. I just like it. So yeah... I can dig Rey's treatise on balance.
"What's stupid is when people decide that X is true - even when it is demonstrable untrue or 100% against what we've said - and run around complaining about that. That's just a breakdown of basic human reasoning." -Mike Mearls
Second, balance is not the same as "perfect balance." No one wants all classes to be exactly equal, to use exactly the same advancement, or to have exactly the same options.

Perfect balance isn't achievable, but it wouldn't look like what you describe, even if it were.  

One of the best definitions of balance I've every hears makes balance about options.  A well-balanced game will present the players with many, viable, meaningful choices.  Providing choices that are radically out of sync in terms of effectiveness makes many of them non-viable, and is imblanaced.  Providing choices that are functionally identical makes them meaningless, and is also not balanced.  

OTOH, using the 'same advancement,' could be a very strong foundation for balance in a game like D&D.  When 3e went from the varied exp charts of earlier versions to a single exp chart for all players, it made balancing the game a little more practical.  It still declined to really balance it, but it was foundation they could have build a balanced game upon.  Similarly, 4e's advancement chart for PCs made it easier to balance across many classes, because powers only needed to be balanced against other powers of the same type and level - there was no need to balance the Vancian slots of the wizard vs spontaneous slots of sorcerers vs the unlimitted-use feats of the fighter.  Everyone got the same number and usages of powers, the just got powers that were distinct, viable, meaningful choices.  

Balance is a tool to reduce work. 
Balance is a tool to reduce frustration.

Though I guess this is still about 'frustration,' it's also a tool to let players with very different ideas about their characters play in the same game without getting on eachother's nerves.  A tool for achieving compromise without acrimony, very helpful in a game that requires so much social interaction.


 

 

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..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />I'll try to clarify it into two main points.  The first is that I am fine with balance as long as it doesn't come at the cost of losing real variety in choice.



And where's the choice involved if one or two classes utterly outperform the others?  There were technically 11 classes in the 3e PHB, but only 3 real choices: Cleric, Druid, and Wizard.  Everything else was utterly inferior to those three and not a meaningful choice.
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And where's the choice involved if one or two classes utterly outperform the others?  There were technically 11 classes in the 3e PHB, but only 3 real choices: Cleric, Druid, and Wizard.  Everything else was utterly inferior to those three and not a meaningful choice.

That's like saying "Toughness isn't a real choice for a feat."  You have to survive level 1 before you get to level 2, though.


The metagame is not the game.

For me, balance is about making my choices at the table more important than my choices when I create my character.
That's like saying "Toughness isn't a real choice for a feat."  ..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" class="mceContentBody " contenteditable="true" />



It wasn't.  Thank you for making my point for me.
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That's like saying "Toughness isn't a real choice for a feat." 

It wasn't.  Thank you for making my point for me.

My point was that it's only "not a choice" for a subset of players and playstyles.  I played and ran 3E for years without experiencing any imbalance issues between wizard or clerics and fighters, and without relying on house rules either.

The fighters and barbarians were consistent damage dealers.  The casters saved their spells to use in appropriate situations, frequently roasting a bunch of the small fry but rarely doing anything single-handedly.  The game played pretty much as intended, in the vast majority of my experience.

And I've also seen Toughness save more lives than any other single feat.  At level 1, when death is the most common and can happen randomly from a single critical hit, Toughness makes a huge difference for a wizard or sorcerer.

Should a 3.X DM ban the big four as disruptive influences that ruin the rest of the game?  It really depends on the DM, the players, and the nature of the campaign in question.

The metagame is not the game.

That's like saying "Toughness isn't a real choice for a feat." 

It wasn't.  Thank you for making my point for me.

My point was that it's only "not a choice" for a subset of players and playstyles.  I played and ran 3E for years without experiencing any imbalance issues between wizard or clerics and fighters, and without relying on house rules either.

The fighters and barbarians were consistent damage dealers.  The casters saved their spells to use in appropriate situations, frequently roasting a bunch of the small fry but rarely doing anything single-handedly.  The game played pretty much as intended, in the vast majority of my experience.

And I've also seen Toughness save more lives than any other single feat.  At level 1, when death is the most common and can happen randomly from a single critical hit, Toughness makes a huge difference for a wizard or sorcerer.

Should a 3.X DM ban the big four as disruptive influences that ruin the rest of the game?  It really depends on the DM, the players, and the nature of the campaign in question.




Considering that the designer himself said that Toughness was a trap choice and designed to be that way because they thought the idea of trap choices in MtG worked really well.  He specifically said they were rewarding system mastery by putting "attractive looking choices that were sub-optimal" that the really astute players would avoid.



Should a 3.X DM ban the big four as disruptive influences that ruin the rest of the game?  It really depends on the DM, the players, and the nature of the campaign in question.



The very fact that this is taken into consideration is statement that there is a serious issue here.
@Stoloc

Not that I'm saying you're just making it up or anything, but do you have a source for that?  It's entirely possible that the designer in question believed it was a trap choice because he or she didn't understand how powerful it was at level 1.


@Uskglass

I was just trying avoid dismissing the playstyle of those people who do consider them to be overpowered.  I've never had to ask the question before I came to these boards.

The metagame is not the game.

"Not a real choice" is a terrible way to put it.  Can we maybe instead say, "Not a good choice, compared to most of the other choices," and bear in mind that some folks don't care at all about making "good choices"?
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I was just trying avoid dismissing the playstyle of those people who do consider them to be overpowered.  I've never had to ask the question before I came to these boards.



Good for you. In my experience as soon as a player with a good system mastery is at the table playing a 3.x caster class than the job of the DM becomes firefighting to keep the session engaging for everyone else, and prevent the plot from collapsing in the meantime.  

That's like saying "Toughness isn't a real choice for a feat."  ..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" class="mceContentBody " contenteditable="true" />



It wasn't.  Thank you for making my point for me.

Toughness isn't the best example, since it isn't a strictly inferior choice, especially if re-training were allowed.   Feats are a gold-mine of useless, 'trap,' overpowered, 'tax,' and even clearly stricty-inferior choices, though, both in 3e and 4e.  

 

 

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@Stoloc

Not that I'm saying you're just making it up or anything, but do you have a source for that?  It's entirely possible that the designer in question believed it was a trap choice because he or she didn't understand how powerful it was at level 1.


@Uskglass

I was just trying avoid dismissing the playstyle of those people who do consider them to be overpowered.  I've never had to ask the question before I came to these boards.



I'll try to find a link to where they said this- it was a few years ago but there have been a few folks who linked to it.  Toughness was specifically mentioned as one of the feats that they intentionally designed to "look good but are suboptimal".

Here's the quote

Magic also has a concept of "Timmy cards." These are cards that look cool, but aren't actually that great in the game. The purpose of such cards is to reward people for really mastering the game, and making players feel smart when they've figured out that one card is better than the other. While D&D doesn't exactly do that, it is true that certain game choices are deliberately better than others.


Toughness, for example, has its uses, but in most cases it's not the best choice of feat. 


and the link
www.montecook.com/cgi-bin/page.cgi?mc_lo...

Sorry if I had said it was Mearls before but it was Monte Cook.

The problem with balance is that it seems it means different things to different generations of players.

1)  Some want balance per round of combat (4th Ed'ers)

2)  Some want it across a day of combat (Vancian/Dailies  fans)

3)  Some people want balance done across the 3 pillars (This is largely my preference with a little variation)

Some want it across the 3 pillars and progression (3rd Ed'ers)


I'd be surprised if they can make 5th Ed cater to all these players.  Pagmatically though it would make sense to cater more to groups 3 and 4 because they never really connected with the most recent edition and haven't spent money for a while where as the 4th ED'ers are less likely to but a new Edition that mimics their prefered game that they've spen't $50/month on for the past 4 years.
Champ, there are so many false assumptions in that post that I don't even know where to start objecting.
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"Not a real choice" is a terrible way to put it.  Can we maybe instead say, "Not a good choice, compared to most of the other choices," and bear in mind that some folks don't care at all about making "good choices"?



Only if you'd say that, if given the option of Cake or Death, choosing the latter 'might not be the best choice'.
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But that's what people end up arguing about - that they want to be able to pick "death", because they "don't care about good choices" - they just want choices.
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.)
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I think you're being a little inconsistent in what you mean by 'per' or 'accross.'

I'm going to go with it as meaning the minimum range of play that must be encompassed for the game to balance.  Across a narrower range, it's likely to be imbalanced.  
The problem with balance is that it seems it means different things to different generations of players.

1)  Some want balance per round of combat (4th Ed'ers)

That'd be damn near perfect balance but it's neither what anyone wants nor what 4e delivers.

4e delivers balance over a day of adventuring.  In a single round, one character getting a critical hit and another failing to save vs being stunned isn't going to feel very balanced, for instance.  No version of D&D attempts, let alone delivers balance on each round individually.  In 4e a single encounter can showcase one role more than another, or the character who uses several dailies more than one who doesn't use any, so balance isn't quite achieved there, either.  Because of the existance of dailies, balance besomes dependable when you consider whole adventuring days.  

2)  Some want it across a day of combat (Vancian/Dailies  fans)

Vancian doesn't deliver balance in the course of a single day, since a single day may be a 12-encounter meatgrinder or a 1-round Nova.  Rather, balance, happens over the course of many days of adventuring.  So that would be what we might say fans of Vancian want for balance - if, indeed, they want balance at all.

3)  Some people want balance done across the 3 pillars (This is largely my preference with a little variation)

Now we've shifted from time to focus.  What this means is that the game balances only when all three pillars get equal play-time.  If such a game a game balanced across the pillars is played with a combat emphasis, it becomes imbalanced.  

Some want it across the 3 pillars and progression (3rd Ed'ers)

I'd peg this more as a classic-D&D thing.  AD&D and earlier magic-users were extremely weak at low level, 'balanced' by being extremely powerful at high level (at least, that was a stated intent).  


I'd be surprised if they can make 5th Ed cater to all these players.

Well, it could by being a well balanced game.  A game that is balanced in every encounter (combat, interaction & exploration) , for instance, is also balanced in each day or accross all three pillar or accross progressions.  That is, if you take all the above as being minimum acceptable levels of balance.

For instance, you say you want balance across the three pillars.  Does this mean you /want/ imbalance within each pillar, or merely that you're willing to accept it if you must to achieve balance across all three?  



 

 

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And where's the choice involved if one or two classes utterly outperform the others?  There were technically 11 classes in the 3e PHB, but only 3 real choices: Cleric, Druid, and Wizard.  Everything else was utterly inferior to those three and not a meaningful choice.



There are so many things I disagree here I do not even know where to start.

Let's start with this. Make a group of only spellcaster in 3.x and the very moment you find something with good spell resistance or an antimagic field and you are just dead. It's true that they are umbalanced, but there are just enouth ways of shutting them down.

But the point I deeply, deeply disagree is: why do you play an rpg? To be a strong character that kick ass or to tell a story? I do it to tell a story. I am a non optimized charcater? I am often overshadowed? I'm anyway hardly ever useless. If I'm a fighter I roleplay social situations, and if the high level spellcaster that fight by my side can beat me in one on one 99% of times, well, good luck he is on my side and he spends all his resources trying to make me easyer to kill foes. And if sometimes he end a fightin in just one move, well, I will be cool the fighting after when he will not have enouth magic and i will deal my xhundred damages in one blow.
But you know? For me it will never be important to be the best at ending fight or solving traps. Maybe just for my character. The important is to tell a good story, have an awsome character and have fun. That's the reason I do not care about gamebalance.
So I will always have 11 choices. Without considering multiclass or prestige classes. 
For instance, you say you want balance across the three pillars.  Does this mean you /want/ imbalance within each pillar, or merely that you're willing to accept it if you must to achieve balance across all three? 



I want balance across all 3 but not necessarily within each.  I like that rogues are good at scouting, exploring and social situations but are say, less effective than the fighter at fighting, or at least is more situational.

This then appeals too 2 different types of gameplay.  People who enjoy being combat monsters can take the fighter route where those who like exploring/adventuring would be more suited to rogues.  This doesn't mean that the rogue is left clapping in combat, but he should have to rely on stealth/tactics to maximise his input, where the fighter really just lines up with the bad guys and swings his axe.

(Note:  I'm not implying that the fighter have no options, but just more combat options and less say social or exploring options)

I think 3rd Ed did this pretty well.  Where as 4th Ed seemed to try and make everyone the same.  Where wizards had fireball, warriors had Shoutball.  It just felt cheap, boring and sameish.


I was just trying avoid dismissing the playstyle of those people who do consider them to be overpowered.  I've never had to ask the question before I came to these boards.



Good for you. In my experience as soon as a player with a good system mastery is at the table playing a 3.x caster class than the job of the DM becomes firefighting to keep the session engaging for everyone else, and prevent the plot from collapsing in the meantime.  





I like to hear about 3.x groups where the well hasn't been poisoned. My initial experience with 3.5 was if you had an idea for a character that wasn't on some CharOp board somewhere you were the understudy. When I took the time to learn all the loopholes, tricks and breakable game mechanics I wasn't getting much from the game anymore. When I eventually played again w/ Pathfinder (and a different group) the players weren't focused on "winning" and the game was fun again. A big part of balance is just not having CharOp guys mucking with everything for their self-aggrandizement.


When I look at 5E I honestly can't tell if the classes are balanced or not. When we played, the fighter took a good chunk of the glory but looks weaker as he levels up.

I like to hear about 3.x groups where the well hasn't been poisoned. My initial experience with 3.5 was if you had an idea for a character that wasn't on some CharOp board somewhere you were the understudy. When I took the time to learn all the loopholes, tricks and breakable game mechanics I wasn't getting much from the game anymore. When I eventually played again w/ Pathfinder (and a different group) the players weren't focused on "winning" and the game was fun again. A big part of balance is just not having CharOp guys mucking with everything for their self-aggrandizement.




Yeah, it seems like Magic: the Gathering affected D&D (not in a good way). 
lol spell resistance

And Anti-Magic zones are magic. HOW ABOUT THAT, THE ONLY WAY TO STOP A WIZARD IS ANOTHER WIZARD.
For instance, you say you want balance across the three pillars.  Does this mean you /want/ imbalance within each pillar, or merely that you're willing to accept it if you must to achieve balance across all three? 

I want balance across all 3 but not necessarily within each.  I like that rogues are good at scouting, exploring and social situations but are say, less effective than the fighter at fighting, or at least is more situational.

"Not necessarily within each" would seem to imply that you wouldn't object to there being balance within one or even all of the pillars.  Is that the case, or do you prefer imbalance within each pillar?

This then appeals too 2 different types of gameplay.  People who enjoy being combat monsters can take the fighter route where those who like exploring/adventuring would be more suited to rogues.

Well, it limits the options of people who find one sort of game play apealing.  The combat-oriented player can't play a rogue (like he could in 4e) who is a fast, opportunistic, but above all deadly, combatant.   The social-oriented character can't play the noble Knight who navigates the hazzards of Court intrigue (at least, not as a Fighter /class/).  

It also limits the options of groups who want to emphasize one pillar over the other.  The byzantine-intrigue game can't have fighters in it, they'd be under-contributing - in fact, the whole game will start coming apart at the seams without the equal portions of combat and exploration to keep it 'balanced.'  

OTOH, a game that balances each of the pillars not only lets the combat guy and the exploration guy play the kind of character they want - it lets them play the /concept/ they want.  The explorer can be a bold explorer who's tough in a fight, not just a cagey one who stabs people in the back.  The combative character can be a daring swashbuckling rogue, not just a heavy-armored fighter.

Ultimately, balance supports more styles of play.  It just doesn't reward or 'force' any.

 
This doesn't mean that the rogue is left clapping in combat, but he should have to rely on stealth/tactics to maximise his input, where the fighter really just lines up with the bad guys and swings his axe.

Does it mean the fighter is just sitting quietly in the background durring social, or holding the light in exploration?  Or can you think of a meaningful contribution the big lug could make by doing something class-apropriate, like when the rogue contributes in combat with his sneaky attacks?  

I think 3rd Ed did this pretty well.  Where as 4th Ed seemed to try and make everyone the same.  Where wizards had fireball, warriors had Shoutball.  It just felt cheap, boring and sameish.

OK, again, as soon as you bring up 4e, you find yourself at odds with the facts.  We were talking about balance among the 'pillars.'  3e did not have any particular balance within or among the pillars - some classes were extremely effective in all three, others less effective in one or two, and at some  levels, just flatly inferior accross the board.  4e may have achieved excellent combat balance, but outside of that pillar it ran into trouble, some classes had little to do when it came to 'social' or 'exploration,' while others were wizzes thanks to skills and/or rituals.   However it may have 'seemed' to you, 4e's use of a common structure did not make all everyone "the same," everyone had the same number of powers gained at the same levels, but those powers were very different reflecting the difference between roles and sources.  Wizards, had Fireball, for instance, a large-area power useable at realtively long range.  Fighters had no 'Shoutball,' nor did any other martial class.  In fact, fighter had no area powers useable at range, /at all/.  None.  



 

 

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And Anti-Magic zones are magic. HOW ABOUT THAT, THE ONLY WAY TO STOP A WIZARD IS ANOTHER WIZARD.




Monsters have spell-like abilities in pre-4th Ed.

And where's the choice involved if one or two classes utterly outperform the others?  There were technically 11 classes in the 3e PHB, but only 3 real choices: Cleric, Druid, and Wizard.  Everything else was utterly inferior to those three and not a meaningful choice.



There are so many things I disagree here I do not even know where to start.

Let's start with this. Make a group of only spellcaster in 3.x and the very moment you find something with good spell resistance or an antimagic field and you are just dead.

The deadliest spell-resistant monster my old 3.x group met was a golem.  Actually, two.  One was a near TPK, it was in 3.0 and our Sorceress had no spells that could effect it - and we had no weapons that could, either.  The other wasn't even that tough, it was another untouchable-SR golem, it had a very powerful attack ability, but it was now 3.5 and Acid Arrow ignored SR.  The same Sorceress not only killed the golem almost single handed, but /overkilled/ it comically, because of the durration of Acid Arrow.  Extend and Empower spell had a hand in that.  SR stopped being an issue in 3.5 when certain spells started ignoring it.  Anti-magic, at high levels, was devestating for everyone, since non-casters had become profoundly magic-item dependent by that point.

But the point I deeply, deeply disagree is: why do you play an rpg? To be a strong character that kick ass or to tell a story?

Well, according to one criticsim of 4e, it /must/ be to 'tell a story,' since 4e only apeals to 'narrativists.'  

 

 

Oops, looks like this request tried to create an infinite loop. We do not allow such things here. We are a professional website!

lol spell resistance

And Anti-Magic zones are magic. HOW ABOUT THAT, THE ONLY WAY TO STOP A WIZARD IS ANOTHER WIZARD.



AHHHH!

True Balance...

Balance was never an issue when I first started Redbox decades ago.  We just played the game.  Course, there was probably someone that didn't like something about it. 

I for one, want my Wizards to be possessed with a power far greater than most can even understand. 

Here is what happens when you mess with the balance:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_ekugPKqFw

At will lightning bolts and a daily death spell....We can all hear who was the biggest contributor!  Tongue Out

"The Apollo moon landing is off topic for this thread and this forum. Let's get back on topic." Crazy Monkey

...bear in mind that some folks don't care at all about making "good choices"?



I think you hit the nail on the head with that one. It isn't about balance or imbalance, some people just don't care. They will make bad choices so they can have a character concept that they find fun.

What I don't understand is if they didn't have the option of making a bad choice because all choices were equally good, in order to make their character concept, then why do they rail against it so much...
"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.
SR stopped being an issue in 3.5 when certain spells started ignoring it.




Yes, the Spell Compendium; I still wake up in sweats over Murderous Mist.

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