Why are people so obsessed with game balance?

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[rant]

Honestly, why do so many people complain about how X is unbalanced compared to Y? I've been a D&D player since 1991 and only had once slight problem with game balance (I played a human monk in a campaign with STR 50 tieflings in 2001). If you ask me, balance hurts the game. It's the things that unbalance a character that make that character interesting and unique.

The whole point of the game is to have fun. I don't think people are having fun when they nitpick about classes being unbalanced. It may be that they have lesser powered characters.

House rules exist for a reason. Personally I prefer 2e with BD&D combat rules and some 3e-isms.

[/rant]
People want balance, so they won't feel subpar for playing a half-elf fighter rather than "the only true build". DMs worry about munchkins. Either way, it's good if some classes are better at something than others (that's the point), but no one wants certain races and classes completely obsolete because of those differences.
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Its not fun when you play a game and you suck totally, or when someone ruins the campaign by stomping all over it.

Its different in 4e as most things are balanced, or the difference in balance isn't majorly significant.
Balance is important so that no one feels like they are playing the side kick. Everyone wants to feel useful in a campaign. Hence why every class has to be even with every other class at every level. 2E is fun but to me 4e is better.
If you don't care about balance then why have everyone start at the same level? Why not let them start at 15 or 23 depending on how awesome they think there character should be? Varying power between players makes creating fun encounters for everyone very difficult. If I have to attack a monster 10 times to kill it, but my friend can take it out in one minor action; I'm going to be bored out of my mind and so will my friend.
If you don't care about balance then why have everyone start at the same level ? Why not let them start at 15 or 23 depending on how awesome they think there character should be ? Varying power between players makes creating fun encounters for everyone very difficult. If I have to attack a monster 10 times to kill it, but my friend can take it out in one minor action; I'm going to be bored out of my mind and so will my friend.

This.

If people like playing Imbal so much, and want characters > everyone else why not simply play at a higher level than everyone else?
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Honestly, why do so many people complain about how X is unbalanced compared to Y?

Because I find balanced games more fun.
balance is great for a game i played in a game with my brother and friends and we let some "power gamers" in where we make char's based on roleplay and fun these guys made fighter based classes that when charged at level 10 could do almost 300 dmg so when they decide they dont like your attitude they just come up and smack you with there dagger for 100 dmg its kinda stupid 4e is great every class has a purpose and everyone has a chance to do something its unfair to the players and the dm to have unbalance players some who have a harder time taken down dragons and some who can just go up to a terrask and eat its face
Sure, it's fun to be imba-powerful for a while, but what about being imba-weaksauce?
Let us not forget that the reason game balance exists between the classes is to allow the DM to create appropriate encounters easily. Without solid game balance, you are left with the classic DM dilemma from earlier editions: "creature that can pose a threat to the fighter will kill the wizard in one shot, creature that can pose a threat to the wizard will be unable to hit the fighter at all."

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House rules exist for a reason. Personally I prefer 2e with BD&D combat rules and some 3e-isms.

[/rant]

Its far easier to house rule in imbalance, than the reverse.

You want to give elves 2 full classes so there's never a reason to play a human? Go nuts. Since you dont care about the consequences, its easy. I, on the other hand, would have a harder time coblling together a playable game out of 2nd edition, since I actually do care about good rule design and balance.
[rant]

Honestly, why do so many people complain about how X is unbalanced compared to Y? I've been a D&D player since 1991 and only had once slight problem with game balance (I played a human monk in a campaign with STR 50 tieflings in 2001). If you ask me, balance hurts the game. It's the things that unbalance a character that make that character interesting and unique.

The whole point of the game is to have fun. I don't think people are having fun when they nitpick about classes being unbalanced. It may be that they have lesser powered characters.

House rules exist for a reason. Personally I prefer 2e with BD&D combat rules and some 3e-isms.

[/rant]

Define fun. If fun for you is stomping the enemy into a whole lotta ooze, then yeah 4e killed your fun. If fun for you is being able to do things unrestricted and being "godlike", then 4e at first glance killed your fun. If fun for you is being able to munchkin without anything to stop you or rain on your party, then 4e isn't your game.

For me, however, 4e is pretty good. Not perfect, but good enough.


Hmm...

"why do so many people complain about how X is unbalanced compared to Y?"

Maybe it's because people are expecting WotC to spoonfeed them everything their DMs could houserule since they want to be sure they're doing stuff right (I guess that makes them rules lawyers in varying degrees). Even if this was 2e vs 1e people would complain about balance if they had DMs who weren't able to find things to match up to their players' playing preferences.

"If you ask me, balance hurts the game."

Anything done in its excess would hurt the game. Too much balance and you lose some players, too little and you lose even more players.


"It's the things that unbalance a character that make that character interesting and unique. "

Then create an unbalanced character! Everybody pretty much agrees that the Demigod Epic Destiny is seriously broken, and even at Heroic tier there are ways to inflict hundreds of points in damage in just one turn (heck, there's a thread here where they tried to get the highest amount of damage one can do in a single turn, and one winner had like more than 500 damage against a single target, and the other had a little over 1000 damage against a mob!). And if the issue is being "interesting and unique" then all you have to do is ignore the "advises" of those that hail from the Character Optimization forums because their job -- min/maxing your character -- would obviously not apply to you.

I consider my character(s) interesting and unique precisely because when min/maxers would look at them they'd probably scoff at the build since it isn't "optimized"... but even though it's not optimized statistics-wise it's still optimized for the flavor I picked for my own character, and they have absolutely no right to say that my character would suck eggs or what not.


Plus they even removed the need for Armored Arcana and similar restrictions to my character, allowing me to create builds that would seem sick and twisted and more fitting for other classes, but may actually work if done right... like a Dwarven Battlerager/Cosmic Sorcerer Demigod who specializes in Full Plate + Shield + Dagger and can rain hell at any range without even flinching.

(In 3e and below that had to be houseruled, now it's possible by RAW)

The way I see it, 4e now is both well-balanced and imbalanced -- a weird assessment, true, but considering that they've pretty much opened the gates on what a DM and player can do in their game (even without the houseruling), that there are houserules that have to tone down player abilities since they're already close to munchkin level to the dismay of others...
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This is what I believe is the spirit of D&D 4E, and my deal breaker for D&D Next: equal opportunities, with distinct specializations, in areas where conflict happens the most often, without having to worry about heavy micromanagement or system mastery. What I hope to be my most useful contributions to the D&D Community: DM Idea: Collaborative Mapping, Classless 4E (homebrew system, that hopefully helps in D&D Next development), Gamma World 7E random character generator (by yours truly), and the Concept of Perfect Imbalance (for D&D Next and other TRPGs in development) Pre-3E D&D should be recognized for what they were: simulation wargames where people could tell stories with The Best Answer to "Why 4E?" Fun vs. Engaging
The key reasons I prefer it is:
  • It allows for easier conflict building for a DM. I can quickly access the power of my players and build conflicts where I know that each player won't be swamped or breeze through it.
  • The other is that it allows much more ease in character building. One can simply build a character as they choose and not be heavily penalized for being built, "sub-optimal". It allows the game to be a roleplaying game where you play what you want, not what you need to survive.
People are obsessed with balance because we despise the feeling of helplessness. In our games we want to have the opportunity to do something awesome, not hold the wizards bags while he takes care of the problem.
House rules exist for a reason.

So your argument is people shouldn't worry about balance because they should just make up their own games? I don't think you get the point.

"why do so many people complain about how X is unbalanced compared to Y?"

Maybe it's because people are expecting WotC to spoonfeed them everything their DMs could houserule since they want to be sure they're doing stuff right (I guess that makes them rules lawyers in varying degrees). Even if this was 2e vs 1e people would complain about balance if they had DMs who weren't able to find things to match up to their players' playing preferences.

Obviously neither do you. WotC created a game with a defined system. Saying "house rule it" neither removes the fact the WotC created a specific system nor does it fix it. If you are saying "house rule everything" why the hell are you even paying WotC? Your argument to a broken game is make everything up yourself. Why waste money on WotC products at that point? House ruling does not fix the problem and implying it does in a holier-than-thou way just makes you look dumb.
Balance is a good thing, if only because it gives a real meaning to game constructs like character level and combat role. By looking at a character's level and role, you have a pretty good idea of how strong the character is and where his strengths lie. Without intrinsic balance in class design, this is not possible. For example, without specifying the character's class, we can't really have a good idea of how strong a 13th-level character was in 3E.

This being said, it's not because there exists intrinsic balance in the game that every game needs to be completely balanced. If you want wizards to be made of awesome sauce, have them begin play at a higher level. There's no reason why a wizard should be stronger than a fighter, when both are of the same level, since level is a measure of their awesomeness.

People are obsessed with balance because we despise the feeling of helplessness. In our games we want to have the opportunity to do something awesome, not hold the wizards bags while he takes care of the problem.

I think the term "uselessness" would be more appropriate here, rather than "helplessness."
*puts on Devil's advocate hat*

While balance is a fine thing to be sure, there is the dread of having Pleasantville syndrome, everyone is good at everything, everyone can take on this challenge with a bit of trying, everyone has X to hit for Y[W] damage, EVERYONE has the same powers and hit points, with all uniqueness being a glimmer of fluff slapped on at the end.

*takes off hat*
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*puts on Devil's advocate hat*

While balance is a fine thing to be sure, there is the dread of having Pleasantville syndrome, everyone is good at everything, everyone can take on this challenge with a bit of trying, everyone has X to hit for Y[W] damage, EVERYONE has the same powers and hit points, with all uniqueness being a glimmer of fluff slapped on at the end.

*takes off hat*

Ahem...

What else can I say?
Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).
*puts on Devil's advocate hat*

While balance is a fine thing to be sure, there is the dread of having Pleasantville syndrome, everyone is good at everything, everyone can take on this challenge with a bit of trying, everyone has X to hit for Y[W] damage, EVERYONE has the same powers and hit points, with all uniqueness being a glimmer of fluff slapped on at the end.

*takes off hat*

While it's true that everyone might be balanced if everyone is the same, it's not true to say that the only way to balance things is to make everyone the same.
While it's true that everyone might be balanced if everyone is the same, it's not true to say that the only way to balance things is to make everyone the same.

I agree, it is possible to balance a game without carbon copies, in the link Armisael provided, it was shown how a game can have balance by throwing together such a crazy mish-mash of powers and abilities then just laying down some straight up anti-cheese rules. Like if there was a rule that said "At X level, you can only do at max, Y damage" (while this is a terrible example and gimps strikers, it's still an example) it makes a conscious effort on the developers to say that those shenanigans are not okay.
www.youtube.com/user/TheBoj0 Watch me battle pogeymanz So according to all those online things, I'm an Artifact, lv 2 Zombie with stats of 3.14, googleplex, and purple, and my personality type is LMNO. Also, I am always the comic relief character of that stupid anime you like. That sounds pretty close...
The bottom line is that many players handle their advantage or disadvantage badly and make the game unfun for all at the table. For many groups, it's much easier if those imbalances just don't crop up rather than dealing with tempers, lack of consideration and bad feelings amongst playmates that tend to come up when trying adjust player behavior.
Really, uniqueness and unbalance are not the same. They aren't even related. You can have a completely balanced game and have every element unique. I'm getting tired of saying this, but look at Starcraft.

The obsession with balance is due to the fact that there's no reason for things to be unbalanced. A lack of balance in a game system is a weakness. Any perceived strength is actually due to misappropriated elements.

A druid is different from a cleric because it can wildshape. But does that make every cleric the same and every druid the same? Obviously not, because what makes the characters unique are not their access to wild shape or domain spells in the first place.
The bottom line is that many players handle their advantage or disadvantage badly and make the game unfun for all at the table. For many groups, it's much easier if those imbalances just don't crop up rather than dealing with tempers, lack of consideration and bad feelings amongst playmates that tend to come up when trying adjust player behavior.

I think there is a lot more to balance than people not wanting to deal with player behavior. That certainly contributes to it, but I've played in groups that are made of completely amazing people, yet an imbalanced game with that group would still be less fun than a balanced game (all else being equal).
It's the things that unbalance a character that make that character interesting and unique.

Imbalance is the first sign of bad design. Any idiot can slap together a bunch of rules and call it a system, and many have!. Actually making that system work like you say it does is the sign of actual design.
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A friend of mine summarized the need for game balance very well. In reference to his time playing LFG (3.5), he stopped playing his barbarian at level 11 because he "was just waiting for the wizards to let him to something cool."

Co-author on AoA 2-3 and 4-1.

Because 3.5E was slightly unbalanced and WotC capitalized that by advertising that balance is super important and that 4E is perfectly balanced. So yeah, people are only worried about balance so much because WotC told them how important balance is.
Because 3.5E was grossly unbalanced and WotC capitalized that by advertising that balance is super important and that 4E is perfectly balanced. So yeah, people are only worried about balance so much because WotC told them how important balance is.

Fixed it for you. Also, well played, sir, well played. I was waiting for someone to use the "Viewers Are Morons" card.

Now, let us eschew any further replies to the trolling attempt and focus on the balance discussion, shall we?
Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).
Because 3.5E was slightly unbalanced and WotC capitalized that by advertising that balance is super important and that 4E is perfectly balanced. So yeah, people are only worried about balance so much because WotC told them how important balance is.

Thats like saying the great depression was a slight dip in the stock market. 3.5 was completley unbalanced. Balance is only one of the improvements 4e made but it is an important one.
Because 3.5E was slightly unbalanced and WotC capitalized that by advertising that balance is super important and that 4E is perfectly balanced. So yeah, people are only worried about balance so much because WotC told them how important balance is.

Untrue. Game Balance has always been a staple of my factors in deciding on what games I want to play. Tabletop or Videogame or even mundane games.

If any game is sided so that only one person or one role is worth playing for example lets say the seeker in a game of hide and seek set in an empty room. In that case the game itself is unbalanced so that no one would have fun excpt the seeker.

Play whatever the **** you want. Never Point a loaded party at a plot you are not willing to shoot. Arcane Rhetoric. My Blog.

Honestly, why do so many people complain about how X is unbalanced compared to Y?

4E vastly improved the tactical "miniature" combat gameplay. In doing so, it "balanced" a lot of things about the different "units" in that combat (class balance).

It's a better game now, overall. Nothing to complain about.
I'm an experienced gamer but I wouldn't know game balance if it tipped over and hit me in the head ;). Even after twenty-five years of DnDing, I consider myself a hobbyist, not a game designer.

A couple of things at our table: House rules are kept to minimum (for times when there is 'no rule', or 'I can't find the rule' or rarely, 'RAW isn't working'). No player designed classes or powers (unless I happen to recognize your name as that of a professional game designer ).

Playing the game as is results in much less imbalance than if amateurs (or hobbyists if you will) are trying to 'fix' or 'improve' things all the time. That's been my experience at least.
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While balance is a fine thing to be sure, there is the dread of having Pleasantville syndrome, everyone is good at everything, everyone can take on this challenge with a bit of trying, everyone has X to hit for Y[W] damage, EVERYONE has the same powers and hit points, with all uniqueness being a glimmer of fluff slapped on at the end.

Wow, that sounds alot like 4e....
Wow, that sounds alot like 4e....

False 4e has unique but balanced characters. Try playing a wizard like a fighter see what happens.
My personal feelings are that I tend to pick feats not on what is most effective but on how I envision my character. I also tend to lean lower on the ability scores then most as I like to have room for improvement without being over the top in my abilities.

I've never much worried about balance. People generally tend to know what they're getting into when they make a character and as such they never really whine about oneupmanship and feeling inadequate.

They're girlfriends handle that I'm sure.

-Cal
If youliked certain unbalanced aspects of previous editions, play them or house rule the inclusion of something similar. Nobody really cares what you do in the privacy of your own gaming group.
I've never much worried about balance. People generally tend to know what they're getting into when they make a character and as such they never really whine about oneupmanship and feeling inadequate.

They're girlfriends handle that I'm sure.

-Cal

Wait... so are you saying that only girls ever feel bested and inadequate? Or that when gamers do feel bested and inadequate, they have girlfriends that they can turn to for help

Because both are blatant misrepresentations of reality. ;)
Wait... so are you saying that only girls ever feel bested and inadequate? Or that when gamers do feel bested and inadequate, they have girlfriends that they can turn to for help

Because both are blatant misrepresentations of reality. ;)

I think he's saying that there's no need for players to whine about how inadequate they are, because their girlfriends already whine about that enough. That is, the girlfriends whine about how inadequate the players are.

You know, in that way.
Because I don't know about you, but I don't like the idea that not wanting to play Class X automatically makes me a sidekick at best.
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Balance is all good but too much of good thing turns out to be a bad thing. I think 4E does too much balance. Not to the extreme but more than I'd like. The game is still fun for while though. It just kind of gets dull after playing too much from my experience. The simple fix is to play for while then play something else and come back to it. I've just had problems finding anyone who wants to play it again though.
Balance is all good but too much of good thing turns out to be a bad thing. I think 4E does too much balance. Not to the extreme but more than I'd like. The game is still fun for while though. It just kind of gets dull after playing too much from my experience. The simple fix is to play for while then play something else and come back to it. I've just had problems finding anyone who wants to play it again though.

Read the link I posted above. There is no such thing as a boring balanced game (that has depth, of course), only uninteresting groups.
Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).