Defining Game Balance

What exactly IS game balance?  I've read posts from people on both sides of the divide, and no one seems able to agree.  I think the designers could use some more feedback now, on how D&D Next should approach the issue.

SirAntoine wrote:

What exactly IS game balance?  I've read posts from people on both sides of the divide, and no one seems able to agree.  I think the designers could use some more feedback now, on how D&D Next should approach the issue.

You answer your own question. People don't agree and they shouldn't be expected to play the same game. D&D Next should approach the issue by developing more than one system.
...whatever

Bit of a big topic, and I don't really have anything like a succinct answer for you.  In general, balance is about having meaningful choices for players and DMs to make.  There are multiple types of balance, and multiple types of imbalance, and varying ways to try and deliver balance, but most of this gets swept under the rug because people just call it all "balance".   I think a lot of the disagreements on the issue of balance come from different understandings and misunderstandings of what "balance" means and what people mean when they say they want it.

Are you asking what balance is in the general theory of game design? That's actually pretty easy. It's the equilibrium between various game elements. It's to what degree of harmony that different portions of the game can work with each other.

 

AzoriusGuildmage wrote:
Bit of a big topic, and I don't really have anything like a succinct answer for you.
  

 

lol

 

AzoriusGuildmage wrote:
In general, balance is about having meaningful choices for players and DMs to make.  There are multiple types of balance, and multiple types of imbalance, and varying ways to try and deliver balance, but most of this gets swept under the rug because people just call it all "balance".   I think a lot of the disagreements on the issue of balance come from different understandings and misunderstandings of what "balance" means and what people mean when they say they want it.

 

I think the way balance is used by just about everyone on these forums is a vacuous bit of newspeak meant to aid them in accomplishing their agendas.

Oh all the money that e'er I spent,I spent it in good company And all the harm that e'er I've done, Alas, it was to none but me, And all I've done for want of wit, To memory now I can't recall, So fill to me the parting glass. Good night and joy be with you all

My opinion of balance

No option is overhwelmingly more powerful or better in 90% of situations than another, although one choice being better than another situationally(ex: a Rogue will fare better than a Fighter in a stealth section) is fine.

 

Making sure every option presented in the game is a viable choice to take, you open up more playstyles and character concepts to be viable, instead of th issue an unbalanced game can have where you're forced to choose between a long-lived and party-helping bland copy/paste concept, or a flavorful fun concept who has a life expectancy of 2-3 sessions, and instead can play a flavorful fun concept that CAN contribute to the party and live long enough(barring poor decisions/dice rolls).

@Englishlanguage; Overwhelmingly more powerful is a little vague. What level of variance is acceptable in your constrution of a balanced system?

Oh all the money that e'er I spent,I spent it in good company And all the harm that e'er I've done, Alas, it was to none but me, And all I've done for want of wit, To memory now I can't recall, So fill to me the parting glass. Good night and joy be with you all

Well, it kinda depends on the system. While I don't want a repeat of 4e(because I already have 4e), the equality of power level between classes is somethign it definetly got right. The game didn't penalize you for taking a Fighter over a Wizard by making the Fighter completely ineffective at doing his job and letting the Wizard do everything. Both were very good choices and you wouldn't go wrong picking either of them. That is the kind of variance I want.

 

Of course, as I mentioned, they were better than another when certain situatiosn came up.(Wizard is better for chucking spells at enemies across a gap or if some freaky magic stuff needs to be explained, while a Fighter was better if you were surrounded in melee or needed a door kicked down ASAP). That, again, is completely fine.

I have two definitions, based on criteria.

 

For the first, it's "white room" balance. That's a balance that wants everything to be mathematically and/or mechanically equal, so that you could take any two characters and pit them together ala a gladatorial fight, and they'd have an equal chance of defeating one another. This is the type of balance that I feel is only useful in such a "white room" situation, and is thus completely bollocks and generally useless in an actual game scenario.

 

For the second, it's balance as applied to in-game situations. In this case, any ability/power/what-have-you that doesn't fall into a "you are stupid if you don't take this because it is that useful" category is fine, because that ability will be more or less useful depending on the situation. It's impossible to get to "white room" balance because no game designer is psychic/omniscient, and thus can't discern what stories players will run through with their characters. But without a power or whatever that is powerful enough that it's useful in every situation, that's all okay.

For those confused on how DDN's modular rules might work, this may provide some insight: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/11/the-world-of-darkness-shines-when-it-abandons-canon

@mikemearls: Uhhh... do you really not see all the 3e/4e that's basically the entire core system?

 

It is entirely unnecessary to denigrate someone else's approach to gaming in order to validate your own.

The general gist of balance that most people can agree on:

 

When you have 4 players and an 80-hour long campaign, each character should be doing something they're really good at - better than the others, even if the others can still contribute - about 20 of the hours of the campaign.

 

That is to say, at the end of a successful campaign, each player feels like their character contributed to the success of the campaign as much as each other character.

Supporting an edition you like does not make you an edition warrior. Demanding that everybody else support your edition makes you an edition warrior.

Why do I like 13th Age? Because I like D&D: http://magbonch.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/first-impressions-13th-age/

AzoriusGuildmage- "I think that you simply spent so long playing it, especially in your formative years with the hobby, that you've long since rationalized or houseruled away its oddities, and set it in your mind as the standard for what is and isn't reasonable in an rpg."

blacksheepcannibal wrote:

 

 

That is to say, at the end of a successful campaign, each player feels like their character contributed to the success of the campaign as much as each other character.

 

That is something no rule can ever balance.

strider1276 wrote:

For the first, it's "white room" balance. That's a balance that wants everything to be mathematically and/or mechanically equal, so that you could take any two characters and pit them together ala a gladatorial fight, and they'd have an equal chance of defeating one another. This is the type of balance that I feel is only useful in such a "white room" situation, and is thus completely bollocks and generally useless in an actual game scenario.

 

Judging by how 4E went, where any feat that was not ubiquitously applicable (ie a base +X in any circumstance) was deemed underpowered, it's clear that those of us who care about balance and grind out the hard math prefer this "white room balance." As such, white room balance is the way to go, since those of you not a part of said category by definition don't care either way. The fact that the varied circumstances of combat change the balance of a fight does not change the fact that the game itself is balanced; you have to adjust to the circumstances, which is perfectly right and reasonable.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/8.jpg)

Could we be a little more conciliatory?  And what is with the repeating quotes?

SirAntoine wrote:

Could we be a little more conciliatory?  And what is with the repeating quotes?

The repeating quotes is an iOS glitch, happens to me sometimes.
...whatever

XunValDorl_of_HouseKilsek wrote:

 

blacksheepcannibal wrote:

 

 

That is to say, at the end of a successful campaign, each player feels like their character contributed to the success of the campaign as much as each other character.

 

 

That is something no rule can ever balance.

 

That doesn't mean it isn't worth striving for.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/8.jpg)

RKVM wrote:

 

strider1276 wrote:

For the first, it's "white room" balance. That's a balance that wants everything to be mathematically and/or mechanically equal, so that you could take any two characters and pit them together ala a gladatorial fight, and they'd have an equal chance of defeating one another. This is the type of balance that I feel is only useful in such a "white room" situation, and is thus completely bollocks and generally useless in an actual game scenario.

 

 

Judging by how 4E went, where any feat that was not ubiquitously applicable (ie a base +X in any circumstance) was deemed underpowered, it's clear that those of us who care about balance and grind out the hard math prefer this "white room balance." As such, white room balance is the way to go, since those of you not a part of said category by definition don't care either way. The fact that the varied circumstances of combat change the balance of a fight does not change the fact that the game itself is balanced; you have to adjust to the circumstances, which is perfectly right and reasonable.

The trouble is that people aren't being honest when they say they don't care about balance. If they didn't care, then a balanced game would be fine and they wouldn't be complaining. They either want things imbalanced so they can hog the spotlight(you can hog the spotlight just as well by being weak as you can by being strong), or they are stuck in the past an opposed to change. 
...whatever

RKVM wrote:
Judging by how 4E went, where any feat that was not ubiquitously applicable (ie a base +X in any circumstance) was deemed underpowered, it's clear that those of us who care about balance and grind out the hard math prefer this "white room balance."

 

I'm aware. I also stand by my experiences over the past 20 years or so that "white room balance" means exactly diddly-squat when applied in-game. Something that works well in a "white room" scenario may be rendered completely useless (and thus, underpowered by your definition) due to circumstances. Ergo, it isn't equally useful at all times, which is what that "white room balance" strives to attain.

 

RKVM wrote:
As such, white room balance is the way to go, since those of you not a part of said category by definition don't care either way.

 

Here's an idea: don't tell me - or anyone else - what I (or they) do or do not care about. I care that players have a good time at my table, or in any game I might write, and that they can contribute to the group's overall effectiveness. Or, in games where the individual character has their own goals, that they can achieve those goals as well. 

 

RKVM wrote:
The fact that the varied circumstances of combat change the balance of a fight does not change the fact that the game itself is balanced; you have to adjust to the circumstances, which is perfectly right and reasonable.

 

And if those circumstances change an item's effectiveness, as I described above - and those circumstances will - than "white room balance" ceases to work as described. Everything then becomes balanced relative to the circumstances, which is where most games in my experience tend to hit as a "sweet spot."

 

For those confused on how DDN's modular rules might work, this may provide some insight: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/11/the-world-of-darkness-shines-when-it-abandons-canon

@mikemearls: Uhhh... do you really not see all the 3e/4e that's basically the entire core system?

 

It is entirely unnecessary to denigrate someone else's approach to gaming in order to validate your own.

Removed a lot of edition warring and personal attacks - both things are against the Code of Conduct.

 

http://company.wizards.com/conduct

 

Keep it clean.

strider1276 wrote:

 

RKVM wrote:
Judging by how 4E went, where any feat that was not ubiquitously applicable (ie a base +X in any circumstance) was deemed underpowered, it's clear that those of us who care about balance and grind out the hard math prefer this "white room balance."

 

I'm aware. I also stand by my experiences over the past 20 years or so that "white room balance" means exactly diddly-squat when applied in-game. Something that works well in a "white room" scenario may be rendered completely useless (and thus, underpowered by your definition) due to circumstances. Ergo, it isn't equally useful at all times, which is what that "white room balance" strives to attain.

 

I disagree that such balance is, in those circumstances, useless and "underpowered by my definition." As I stated: 

 

RKVM wrote:

you have to adjust to the circumstances, which is perfectly right and reasonable.

 

strider1276 wrote:

 

RKVM wrote:
As such, white room balance is the way to go, since those of you not a part of said category by definition don't care either way.

 

Here's an idea: don't tell me - or anyone else - what I (or they) do or do not care about. I care that players have a good time at my table, or in any game I might write, and that they can contribute to the group's overall effectiveness. Or, in games where the individual character has their own goals, that they can achieve those goals as well. 

 

 

Pardon my phrasing, I understand the offense you took and I apologize. It's been a very contentious mood on the forums tonight, so I'm feeling snippy.

 

strider1276 wrote:

 

RKVM wrote:
The fact that the varied circumstances of combat change the balance of a fight does not change the fact that the game itself is balanced; you have to adjust to the circumstances, which is perfectly right and reasonable.

 

 

And if those circumstances change an item's effectiveness, as I described above - and those circumstances will - then "white room balance" ceases to work as described. Everything then becomes balanced relative to the circumstances, which is where most games in my experience tend to hit as a "sweet spot."

 

 

I'm not entirely understanding your reference to a "sweet spot." As I stated (and requoted) above, circumstances altering the balance makes sense. It's realistic that two swordfighters equally skilled in their respective (balanced) styles would fight to a draw in an empty white room, but put an ice-slick under one's feet and that one will likely lose. Circumstance should be accounted for by the player, not the rules, if you get my meaning.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/8.jpg)

Here's an example of game balance - some brand new to the game player makes a new character, picks a class and race and feats and skills and hindrances and edges and aspects and whatever, and ends up with a character that can hold her own with chars made by people who've been gaming since Gygax's time.

 

Balance means you can pick and choose and don't have to run the risk of making an utterly worthless and useless character, or the risk of accidentily making a tiny god who trumps everyone else easily.

Bud_the_CHUD wrote:

 

Balance means you can pick and choose and don't have to run the risk of making an utterly worthless and useless character, or the risk of accidentily making a tiny god who trumps everyone else easily.

 

This is also purely subjective because some groups aren't worried about one class out damaging another. Worthless and useless are subjective as well. I have never ever seen a game where someone was completely useless.

 

I call this a myth.

Game Balance is an absence of favoritism at the system level.

XunValDorl_of_HouseKilsek wrote:

 

Bud_the_CHUD wrote:

 

Balance means you can pick and choose and don't have to run the risk of making an utterly worthless and useless character, or the risk of accidentily making a tiny god who trumps everyone else easily.

 

 

This is also purely subjective because some groups aren't worried about one class out damaging another. Worthless and useless are subjective as well. I have never ever seen a game where someone was completely useless.

 

I call this a myth.

 

I assume this is refering to the idea of "balance"? I'd say "myth" is a rather dramatic term to use, and inaccurate seeing as how commonplace it is in games. Perfect balance is unattaninable, but the unattainable part is the "perfect" part. Relative balance is entirely within reach.

 

Note that Bud did not use the word "damage" in his post.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/8.jpg)

"Balance" just means that concepts like "character level" are actually useful, because everyone with the same character level is able to face about the same level of challenges. It is useful because most groups want all players to contribute to the game about equally overall, even if you also want individuals to have their own moments to shine. It is a worthwhile goal for designers because it's much harder to achieve balance than imbalance, so you're better off paying the professional designers to make a balanced system and then changing it however you want if you prefer some options to predominate.

Balance doesn't require everyone to have the same DPR. It does require everyone to be able to contribute in combat meaningfully. This might mean healing, protecting allies, disabling or distracting enemies, etc. 

ClockworkNecktie wrote:

Balance doesn't require everyone to have the same DPR. It does require everyone to be able to contribute in combat meaningfully. This might mean healing, protecting allies, disabling or distracting enemies, etc. 

 

"Contribute meaningfully in combat" is a subjective thing that varies from player to player. No rule will ever hit this nail on the head.

XunValDorl_of_HouseKilsek wrote:

"Contribute meaningfully in combat" is a subjective thing that varies from player to player. No rule will ever hit this nail on the head.

RKVM wrote:

That doesn't mean it isn't worth striving for.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/8.jpg)

RKVM wrote:
Pardon my phrasing, I understand the offense you took and I apologize. It's been a very contentious mood on the forums tonight, so I'm feeling snippy.

 

Oh, no offense taken - I was trying to cut off behavior ahead of time before things got worse, is all. My apologies for any snippiness, for the same reasons.

 

RKVM wrote:
I'm not entirely understanding your reference to a "sweet spot." As I stated (and requoted) above, circumstances altering the balance makes sense. It's realistic that two swordfighters equally skilled in their respective (balanced) styles would fight to a draw in an empty white room, but put an ice-slick under one's feet and that one will likely lose. Circumstance should be accounted for by the player, not the rules, if you get my meaning.

 

I'm just going to respond here to everything else, since everything is so intertwined.

 

Where I see a "sweet spot" is that of relative balance. By changing a thing, you change the thing that's changing the first thing. Okay, that was unclear phrasing. Let me say this another way (and I warn you, when I said I was going to start drinking in that other thread, I did, so....hopefully this works out!)

 

Okay, let's say you have a rule. It doesn't matter what the rule is exactly for the purposes of this example. The rule works great for the situation in which is was designed - balanced, if you will. For that situation, the rule works wonderfully - that's "white room" balance. 

 

However, the rule quite naturally ends up "in the wild," in a live game scenario. It runs up against circumstances that aren't perfectly suited for it. If "white room" balance applied in-game, then the rule would work perfectly in all situations that the game expects (which is more or less broad depending on the scope and focus of the game). However, because the rule has come into contact with a circumstance for which it wasn't specifically designed. That's where the DM comes in. Some DM's will just rule and be done, others might have a quick chat with the group and come to an amicable solution, some groups may change between those on a case-by-case basis (certainly my experience there).

 

The upshot is that, while the text of the rule hasn't changed, the application of the rule has changed. It might be a subtle change, or a more obvious one. Regardless, the change is there. Now, a rule's text exists as it does devoid of any input - nothing can change how the rule is written once it is in print. That is what it is. A given rule's application is how that rule interacts with the narrative, and thus is what is most often changed. It's the "in-between," if you will, between the rule's text, and the game's narrative. To extend the metaphor of a body, the rules text is the bone, the narrative is the muscle, and the rule's application is the tendons and ligaments attaching the two.

 

So if the application is changed, the rule has the potential to be more or less balanced than its baseline intent. Thus, in comparison to other rules, that rule is either more powerful (if the circumstance is favorable to that rule's application) or less powerful (if the circumstance is not favorable to the rule's application). By definition, that is imbalanced, at least temporarily. As soon as this happens, the rule's "white room" balance is disrupted.

 

Of course, this happens repeatedly over the course of a game session or campaign. The frequency in which this happens depends upon many factors, not least of which is how "out of the box" the players act. I have a few groups of players who will look at the box, nod condescendingly, and then promptly run at it, torches and pitchforks waving, before destroying it and moving on to doing something else.

 

So, because that gets disrupted for any number of rules multiplied by any number of circumstances, the "sweet spot" (I got back around to it, I swear!) is where you can get the highest number of game rules to do what you want them to do (again depending on the focus of your game) while being as applicable to as many situations as possible within that focus without disrupting the rule's effectiveness. Also, as I said earlier (or in another thread, I don't even know anymore), so long as there aren't any items/powers/whatever that if you don't take them, you're stupid, that's fine and the game works.

 

Oh, also, the key rule in my opinion for writing a game is: write for the awesome. Always write for the awesome.

For those confused on how DDN's modular rules might work, this may provide some insight: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/11/the-world-of-darkness-shines-when-it-abandons-canon

@mikemearls: Uhhh... do you really not see all the 3e/4e that's basically the entire core system?

 

It is entirely unnecessary to denigrate someone else's approach to gaming in order to validate your own.

XunValDorl_of_HouseKilsek wrote:

 

ClockworkNecktie wrote:

Balance doesn't require everyone to have the same DPR. It does require everyone to be able to contribute in combat meaningfully. This might mean healing, protecting allies, disabling or distracting enemies, etc. 

 

 

"Contribute meaningfully in combat" is a subjective thing that varies from player to player. No rule will ever hit this nail on the head.

 

That's why balance can be somewhat forgiving in a tabletop RPG: the usefulness of various abilities can be adjusted by clever players and a good DM. That doesn't mean it isn't important, though.

SirAntoine wrote:

What exactly IS game balance?  I've read posts from people on both sides of the divide, and no one seems able to agree.  I think the designers could use some more feedback now, on how D&D Next should approach the issue.

 

To me, blanace is a tool to ensure that each player feels like they can contribute to the game without being outshined by another player, are able to meaningfully contribute to the game, and are provided with an enjoyable level of challenge. Ultimately, balance is about fairness and enjoyment.

It sounds to me like we have two different definitions of balance floating around, that may be complementary, or may not be.

 

The first general definition I'm getting, is that no one PC contributes significantly more than the others. I'm still not sure what the acceptable degree of variance is in the eyes of people who hold to such a definition of balance, and that may be something that's different from person to person, I don't know. For those of you who do hold to such a definition, understanding that unless you have the exact same numbers plugged into the equation, e.g., same class, same race, same feats, same x, you have to know that the answer to the equation will come out different; how much a difference would any of you consider to be acceptable, knowing there will be difference, and what metric do you use to judge?

 

The second definition I'm hearing seems more like it has to do with actually balancing the equation I mentioned above, this "white-room balance." I get the value of the first definition, that it wil likely contribute to more people enjoying the game. In otherwords, balance as defined above is good because it facilitates situations in-game that are enjoyable for the players to experience. I don't necessarily think there is a problem with white-room balance, but I don't see any benefit to it. Maybe the people who advocate for white room balance can share with us a little about why they value it?

 

thecasualoblivion wrote:

 

RKVM wrote:

 

strider1276 wrote:

For the first, it's "white room" balance. That's a balance that wants everything to be mathematically and/or mechanically equal, so that you could take any two characters and pit them together ala a gladatorial fight, and they'd have an equal chance of defeating one another. This is the type of balance that I feel is only useful in such a "white room" situation, and is thus completely bollocks and generally useless in an actual game scenario.

 

 

Judging by how 4E went, where any feat that was not ubiquitously applicable (ie a base +X in any circumstance) was deemed underpowered, it's clear that those of us who care about balance and grind out the hard math prefer this "white room balance." As such, white room balance is the way to go, since those of you not a part of said category by definition don't care either way. The fact that the varied circumstances of combat change the balance of a fight does not change the fact that the game itself is balanced; you have to adjust to the circumstances, which is perfectly right and reasonable.

 

The trouble is that people aren't being honest when they say they don't care about balance. If they didn't care, then a balanced game would be fine and they wouldn't be complaining. They either want things imbalanced so they can hog the spotlight(you can hog the spotlight just as well by being weak as you can by being strong), or they are stuck in the past an opposed to change. 

 

I don't think that's entirely true, and I don't think it's a misconstruction on your part, but I think it's a poor formulation on the part of people saying they don't care. I think the people who say they don't care about game balance are saying they don't consider achieving balance a worthwhile goal, and that they're concerned that in the quest for balance, other things they value might get thrown to the wayside, or even directly sacrificed to increase balance. An example of this actually occuring, not in D&D, but in the Elder Scrolls series, levitation spells were removed, for balance reasons. But I loved those spells because of the experience of literally walking on air. It definitely balanced the game more, but I don't think it was a change for the better.

 

RKVM wrote:

 

XunValDorl_of_HouseKilsek wrote:

 

blacksheepcannibal wrote:

 

 

That is to say, at the end of a successful campaign, each player feels like their character contributed to the success of the campaign as much as each other character.

 

 

That is something no rule can ever balance.

 

 

That doesn't mean it isn't worth striving for.

 

And that's really what this is about; what is a worthwhile design pursuit? I actually agree that generating a feel of contribution is something that is impossible for rules to do, because those feelings have to come from the players. Now, certain simuli might cause those, but the thing is, peoples' perceptions are usually so skewed as to seriously mismeasure the actual contributions they provide, both in a positive and negative direction. If you don't believe me, try this fun little experiment; ask members of your household how much, in terms of a percentage. they contribute to, say, something like washing dishes, something everyone likely does. If you have a family of 3-4 people, expect to be well over 100% by the time you're done. For the record, this experiment wasn't my idea, it was some behavioral scientists, I forget who, Dan-something-or-other. I think the only thing that can be done in pursuit of such a goal is to actually more or less balance the contributions people actually make. But even if this is a worthy design goal, we have to consider the possibility that there might be other design goals just as worthy, and how to incorporate them.

 

 

XunValDorl_of_HouseKilsek wrote:

 

Bud_the_CHUD wrote:

 

Balance means you can pick and choose and don't have to run the risk of making an utterly worthless and useless character, or the risk of accidentily making a tiny god who trumps everyone else easily.

 

 

This is also purely subjective because some groups aren't worried about one class out damaging another. Worthless and useless are subjective as well. I have never ever seen a game where someone was completely useless.

 

I call this a myth.

 

There comes a point where you can be pretty useless. Like pre-errrata Force lightning in Star Wars D20 RPG useless, or Complete Warrior Swashbuckler that doesn't dual-wield useless. Though, generally in every RPG I've ever played, it's always been my experience that you kind of have to deliberately set out to make a character that useless. Otherwise, you'll probably break even.

Oh all the money that e'er I spent,I spent it in good company And all the harm that e'er I've done, Alas, it was to none but me, And all I've done for want of wit, To memory now I can't recall, So fill to me the parting glass. Good night and joy be with you all

strider1276 wrote:
I'm just going to respond here to everything else, since everything is so intertwined...

 

(and I warn you, when I said I was going to start drinking in that other thread, I did, so....hopefully this works out!)

 

Okay, let's say...

 

...

 

...fine and the game works.

 

Oh, also, the key rule in my opinion for writing a game is: write for the awesome. Always write for the awesome.

 

I meant to start drinking tonight as well but I got too caught up in the drama. xD I think I'll start now though. Solidarity ftw! ;D

 

Ok, I think I get it now. I'm tired so I'm going to make my response as succinct as possible:

 

You are correct that interconnected rules will always affect each other in unexpected ways that will upset the predefined balance that the developers intended. Striving to make a system that is simple enough to cut down on these tangles while still being complex enough to be fun is what defines progressive development. It is the dev team's job is to keep working at this problem as they seek to inch closer and closer to the unattainable, mythological () perfection we desire.

 

The goal is to have a level White Room Balance which can be tipped by circumstance without being capsized.

 

For example, Bounded Accuracy and Advantage are new mechanics designed to address this type of rule entanglement. By confining AC and DC to a smaller scale and reducing almost to extinction any base +X value boosts in feats and items, there are less opportunities through out the game for circumstantial modifiers to render a character or ability imbalanced. Instead, Advantage/Disadvantage tips the scales in a significant but manageable way.

 

And I agree; always write for the awesome.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/8.jpg)

RKVM wrote:
I meant to start drinking tonight as well but I got too caught up in the drama. xD I think I'll start now though. Solidarity ftw! ;D

 

Hooray solidarity! Woodchuck Amber for me, as I am sadly out of the real alcohol. Tuesday night, though, I'm planning on slamming back some hurricanes!

 

Ok, I think I get it now. I'm tired so I'm going to make my response as succinct as possible:

 

You are correct that interconnected rules will always affect each other in unexpected ways that will upset the predefined balance that the developers intended. Striving to make a system that is simple enough to cut down on these tangles while still being complex enough to be fun is what defines progressive development. It is the dev team's job is to keep working at this problem as they seek to inch closer and closer to the unattainable, mythological () perfection we desire.

 

I don't think that a designer should strive for a specific level of complexity. The focus or topic of the game should determine that. Some games call for more complexity based on what they are trying to achieve, because they require more rules to handle it. 

 

The goal is to have a level White Room Balance which can be tipped by circumstance without being capsized.

 

That's your goal. It's not mine. I'm shooting for the sweet spot I mentioned.

 

For example, Bounded Accuracy and Advantage are new mechanics designed to address this type of rule entanglement. By confining AC and DC to a smaller scale and reducing almost to extinction any base +X value boosts in feats and items, there are less opportunities through out the game for circumstantial modifiers to render a character or ability imbalanced. Instead, Advantage/Disadvantage tips the scales in a significant but manageable way.

 

Yeah, I've quite enjoyed the Advantage/Disadvantage system. It's been easy and speedy to implement at the game table, which is a huge benefit to me.

 

And I agree; always write for the awesome.

 

Hell yeah. That's what I strive to do.

For those confused on how DDN's modular rules might work, this may provide some insight: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/11/the-world-of-darkness-shines-when-it-abandons-canon

@mikemearls: Uhhh... do you really not see all the 3e/4e that's basically the entire core system?

 

It is entirely unnecessary to denigrate someone else's approach to gaming in order to validate your own.

I'm not sure white room balance, as you're putting it out, is a good measure.  I've mostly only seen white room scenarios used to try and claim things are balanced just fine in (whatever edition/game), eg, "Wizard and Fighter are balanced just fine, because I bet I could make a Fighter that kicks your Wizard's butt!"  What I've usually seen around here from the posters most concerned with getting good balance is having the RAW work as well as it can in an as many common situations as it can.  Of course, in actual play, everything gets a little less balanced, but part of the benefit of a well balanced ruleset is being able to have that variance while still maintaining pretty good balance.  

 

I think I agree with you more than not, Strider, though.  I think we're envisioning the same basic idea about what's good to have in the game.  

AzoriusGuildmage wrote:

I'm not sure white room balance, as you're putting it out, is a good measure.  I've mostly only seen white room scenarios used to try and claim things are balanced just fine in (whatever edition/game), eg, "Wizard and Fighter are balanced just fine, because I bet I could make a Fighter that kicks your Wizard's butt!"  What I've usually seen around here from the posters most concerned with getting good balance is having the RAW work as well as it can in an as many common situations as it can.  Of course, in actual play, everything gets a little less balanced, but part of the benefit of a well balanced ruleset is being able to have that variance while still maintaining pretty good balance. 

 

Yeah, stress testing under the most extreme circumstances is vitally necessary.

I'd presumed the term stemmed from the idea that classes are to get (IMO, roughly) the same amount of spotlight time. Rather than sitting around while class X does everything.

"In the game there is magic" - Orethalion

 

Only got words in my copy.

Balance to me is a well honed rule system that easy to understand and modify, it has expected behaviors that are clear and there are not alot of sub-systems that do not play well together. That creates a strong foundation to add different options, as long as the design is forward looking to consider what a player or DM may want in the game. The approach would be to consider the most complex or advanced state of the game, and develop backwards. This allows you to create bridges for a basic, standard and advanced game.

 

If all the focus is on creating a simple rule system without any consideration on how that will affect future choices to modify the game, then the game is not very balanced when considering the styles of play D&D has presented through each edition.

 

The above would be more important to me, versus "white room balance" for a specific concept like classes.

One thing to keep in mind is the context of "white-room scenarios": when you're talking about, say, single target DPR, you're talking about one of relatively few things a fighter might be expected to beat a wizard at, in or out of combat. So if a wizard meets or beats a fighter in that one metric, that suggests that the system is REALLY broken in a more holistic sense: the fighter can't fly or charm or teleport, AND he can't even kill stuff faster.

SirAntoine wrote:

What exactly IS game balance?  I've read posts from people on both sides of the divide, and no one seems able to agree.  I think the designers could use some more feedback now, on how D&D Next should approach the issue.

 

I answered the question of what is balance in the "what does balance bring to the game" thread (copied below for convenience).

 

MechaPilot wrote:

I do se balance as beneficial to the game.  Now, there are (as you have mentioned) different kinds of balance.  Virtually every edition has had some attempt at balance, and different editions have taken different tracks to try (with varying levels of success) to achieve balance.

 

Campaign Balance

Campaign balance is where you have some classes that excel early on and others that excel later.  It's basically the "time value of xp" method.  Some classes are like getting $100 now.  Other classes are like getting $50 now, and an investment that pays out $500 later.  This kind of balance requires that one play across a certain range of levels to see it come into play.  If you don't play across that range of levels, then the $100 now classes look better because the $50 now classes never get their $500 later.

 

Daily Balance

Daily balance is where the abilities of the characters are balanced across an average adventuring day.  This assumes a given number of encounters occur during the day.  If you have less than that number of encounters, then the limited resource classes outshine the classes without limited resources.  If you have more than that number of encounters in a day, then the classes with limited resources can be outshined by the classes without limited resources.  However, it isn't really guaranteed that they will outshine the limited resource characters because the classes that don't have resource limits on what abilities they can use are still limited in how long the day can be, by their HP totals.

 

Resource Balance

Resource balance is where every class uses resources to power their abilities.  As long as the classes have comparable levels of resources, and their abilities are given a power level commensurate with the kind of resources that have to be spent to power them, then the classes will be roughly equal as long as their resources recover at a similar rate (for example, if the resources are on a daily or per rest period, or a little of both).

 

Ability Balance

Ability balance is where the abilities of a character are balanced against the abilities of other classes at the same level.  This kind of balance can also be called encounter balance, because the idea is that the balance point is present in every encounter.  This kind of balance is the most mathematically obvious, as you have abilities that do damage doing similar amounts of damage if they are at the same level.  This kind of balance often requires riders or additional effects to be placed on damaging abilities to help differentiate them from each other and give them their own flavor.

 

Spotlight Balance

I mention this one last because it isn't really system based.  Instead, it's more based on the DM's adventure construction.  Spotlight balance generally occurs when a class excells at a specific pillar of play.  But, no one pillar is ever really guaranteed to exist.  So, a character that excels at social interactions may almost never get the spotlight in a dungeon crawl.  Conversely, an urban intrigue campaign may offer few opportunities for combat focused classes to stand in the spotlight.

 

Now that we've seen some of the kinds of balance, let's look at the benefits of balance.

 

Encounter Building

Balance allows you to have a better idea of what kind of encounter is appropriate for the PCs.  This not only means that you have a yardstick for throwing level-appropriate encounters at them.  It also means that you know if you're throwing in a cakewalk encounter or an encounter that the PCs absoultely should not fight if they have any sense of self-preservation.  And, perhaps most importantly, it lets the DM know which encounters are most likely to be a cakewalk, level-appropriate, or "Oh god no!" before it starts unfolding.  That means an encounter that is supposed to be tense is less likely to be an accidental cakewalk, or that an encounter that is supposed to be an equal adversary isn't likely to curb-stomp the party.

 

Equivalency of Options

Balance also allows for things that require character resources to be at least roughly equivalent.  For example, feats.  A feat that gives you a +2 to one or two specific kinds of skill checks isn't really equivalent to a feat that gives you a second attack at a penalty.  And yet, in the past, both have cost characters a feat.  Balance allows the game designers to come up with abilities that are both worth the resource the character is spending on them.  For example, poor balance might require a caster to spend feats to learn spells as they level.

 

Similar Purpose - Different Means

This concept works on the idea that different means are used to achieve a similar end.  Ends include things such as bypassing a physical obstacle, a social obstacle, or defeating a foe in combat.  A locked door can be bypassed by use of Knock, picking the lock, or battering down the door.  Different means, but a similar purpose.  And those means, while they are different and should be different in their execution (for example, battering down the door makes more noise, and picking the lock takes longer), should be roughly equivalent in their ability to achieve the purpose: bypassing the locked door.

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.

I think there is noone supposing the game should not be balanced.

 

I think white room balance is not bad as a beginning. Although you could make an argument, a rogue should lose most battles in the white room. But that is not important. Thing is, the game is not played in a white room. But in the forest, the shadows, in a city, in the underground. The important thing is balancing the game in a way, that classes have their surroundings, where they are slightly better than other classes when it makes sense: The ranger and druid in the forest, the rogue in the shadows, the fighter on the battlefield, the cleric against undead and so on. The most important thing is, that no single class is better in every scenario or many scenarios (but i guess, the class would dominate everyone in the white room too)

 

Another factor to consider is how easy it is for the given character class to get to fight on its own favoured conditions. If the rogue is about 20% weaker in the white room, and can get suriprise/shadowy conditions 50% of the time, he may only be 20% ahead in those circumstances. If he can have perfect conditions only with a lot of planning and if the enemy is not paying attention, then a rogue may be 100% better, as his enemy did mistakes...

 

 

Thisishowitends wrote:

I don't think that's entirely true, and I don't think it's a misconstruction on your part, but I think it's a poor formulation on the part of people saying they don't care. I think the people who say they don't care about game balance are saying they don't consider achieving balance a worthwhile goal, and that they're concerned that in the quest for balance, other things they value might get thrown to the wayside, or even directly sacrificed to increase balance. An example of this actually occuring, not in D&D, but in the Elder Scrolls series, levitation spells were removed, for balance reasons. But I loved those spells because of the experience of literally walking on air. It definitely balanced the game more, but I don't think it was a change for the better.

 

 

This would be exactly why I am highly sceptical of a so called highly balanced game that achieves it by just cutting away the parts that it can not balance.

 

The other aspects of balance that I do not like are when everyone gets given the exact same resources to manage or if the game starts adding completely artifical gamist mechanics to try and bring the game to the same level of balance.

 

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I take some issue with the notion that spotlight balance isn't system based. It is. For spotlight balance to work, every area of spotlight must be equally robust, mechanically speaking. For example: in 4e, the skill system was far less robust than the combat system. As a result, building a class that specialized in skill use, in 4e, would not work. The area of the game that the character specializes in would not lead to equally robust contribution due to the fact that the system one specialized in was in and of itself less robust. There are many system issues that must be balanced in a spotlight balanced game.

 

Ultimately, however, that type of system works or doesn't work via the final arbitration of a DM. That, too, is not a bad thing. This game runs on the platform of language and imagination, and calling on that platform, via a living, breathing, holistically intuitive DM, to arbitrate various elements of the game is a strength​ of the medium. But, in order for that strength to remain a strength, the system needs to provide the DM with the infrastructure he needs to intuitively balance encounters. It is very difficult to do so when one character’s spotlight is in a mechanically robust and time consuming activity and another’s is in an ephemeral section of the rules, largely arbitrated by the DM fiat to begin with, and supported only by a light dusting of mechanics.  

 

What I want is a game in which every character has valid mechanical reason to exist. I want a game where every character is mechanically superior to another character in some way shape or form. I want every character's area of mechanical superiority to be equally robust to the areas of superiority exhibited by other characters. And, I want EVERY class to be able to contribute in EVERY pillar of the game to some degree or another. What is more, I want system mastery to have the smallest influence of character effectivity possible. I want any legal combination of element in the game to be as closely balanced, in terms of overall potential effectivity, as any other combination. I wan’t combinations to be chosen on the basis of story and not powergaming as a result of the fact that choices based on story won’t result in weaker characters. 

 

I accept that a DM will have to ensure balance at the table via encounter design. But, if a DM does not have the infrastructure needed to do that to a degree of ease that I find palatable, and without having to bend the narrative to a point where cracks start to form in my sense of verisimilitude, I lose interest in the game.