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Quertus
2017-11-18, 07:05 PM
Game balance has always been an issue.

I don't think I've ever seen an RPG that successfully mapped X characters with Y resources to Z challenge.

Old-school D&D had a really elegant solution to this problem: it's the players' problem. They need to build a team that can do the recon, and accurately determine whether or not something is a valid challenge for them, or whether they should high-tail it out of there, and let sleeping dragons lie.

That works fine in a sandbox, or a dungeon crawl, where the players have the Agency to choose what the adventure is about. But, sometimes, the GM* wants to tell a particular story, or run the characters through a particular adventure, such as a pre-built module. There, the challenge level is set, and, to play the game, the party needs to be able to handle it. They need a "you must be this tall to ride" sign.

If the GM* cares about balance, they have to evaluate the party vs some expected baseline. That baseline may be the sample characters that come with the module, or the sample party that the GM ran through their adventure, or just the GM's gut feel of what would be "about right".

But, not all characters are equal. Sometimes, the problem wasn't balancing characters vs monsters, but characters vs each other. The most elegant solution I've encountered to this problem is having someone - the GM, another player, or the offending player themselves - point out that the character doesn't fit the group power level. And then have them bring a character more in line with the group.

None of this is new. All of this is stuff I've been using for more decades than I can remember.

So why isn't this the "state of the art", or at least the "state of the practice"? Why, instead, does working together to balance a party seem like such a foreign concept to most gamers? Why has the idea of "balance to the group" or "balance to the module" fallen out of favor with the RPG community?

* "GM" can be replaced with "players" or "group" here.

RazorChain
2017-11-18, 07:32 PM
what started as an fantasy adventure game evolved into the RPG. The early games were about beating a module or a scenario. Now there is more diversity made problematic that we are all playing the same game (RPG) but we are playing it differently

Talakeal
2017-11-18, 07:35 PM
This is pretty standard in a point buy game.

IMO the problem only really crops up in class based games (and really only becomes an issue in 3.X D&D) because "class" encapsulates not just character power but also game role, character concept, and mechanical play-style and the game likely doesn't have an option for most people to play the way they want to play at the power level that the game is designed for.

Vitruviansquid
2017-11-18, 07:54 PM
So why isn't this the "state of the art", or at least the "state of the practice"? Why, instead, does working together to balance a party seem like such a foreign concept to most gamers? Why has the idea of "balance to the group" or "balance to the module" fallen out of favor with the RPG community?

1. This is a conflict of interests for the players. Players should not be made to balance themselves because their job is also to be as powerful as possible. Besides, most players want their own characters to be powerful.

2. Most players and GMs are unable to achieve balance even if they honestly wanted to. Most people who don't post regularly on RPG forums (and most people who do) don't know well enough how the numbers interact in order to be any good at balancing the game.

3. It would be pretty gross to open a gamebook and see that Lightning Bolt does 1d6 damage or 2d6 damage or 3d6 damage depending on how powerful the GM and players feel wizards should be.

Nifft
2017-11-18, 08:27 PM
what started as an fantasy adventure game evolved into the RPG. The early games were about beating a module or a scenario. Now there is more diversity made problematic that we are all playing the same game (RPG) but we are playing it differently

Mmm.

The early tournament competition games were about beating a module or scenario.

The module was standardized specifically because it was intended as an adversarial challenge, and the only possible way to make that fair across different players & referees at the tournament was to have the specifics on paper in advance.


I'm not sure if there was any standard way that non-tournament fantasy RPGs were run in the early days. I remember some pretty stark differences between groups, just within the very small sample size of my personal experience.


Modern games exist in the environment of the Internet, so the different ways people play are much more available for perusal & comparison.

IMHO modern D&D games are a bit conflicted about whether they're adversarial tactical challenges or collaborative fantasy improv, and each group tends to do that mix differently, but overall we're playing a lot more similarly than we ever have before -- but the differences are more visible, since everything is more visible.

Darth Ultron
2017-11-18, 09:24 PM
Game balance has always been an issue.

It really does seem to be an issue after 2000 and 3E.




That works fine in a sandbox, or a dungeon crawl, where the players have the Agency to choose what the adventure is about. But, sometimes, the GM* wants to tell a particular story, or run the characters through a particular adventure, such as a pre-built module. There, the challenge level is set, and, to play the game, the party needs to be able to handle it. They need a "you must be this tall to ride" sign.


Well, first off, I think your confusing the Short Game vs the Long Game.

Long Game-This is the Classic Old School way. Players make whatever character they want under the setting and rules and DM's approval. The intent is to play the characters for a long time, at least a year or more, and have the characters adventure across the world and through time and space. In general, this game is unending as there will always be a next adventure...though the group can retire and end the game.

Short Game-Much more modern. The Players make special tailor made characters, under the setting and rules and DM's approval, but only for a very specific game goal. The intent is to play the characters for a short time, often less then a year, to do the set, very specific game goal. This game has a built in limit as once the goal is done, the game is over.

Now Sandbox or Story game does not matter(and after all a sandbox game becomes a story game after a bit of game play anyway), it is more Short game vs Long game.

Only the Short Game has set level and need. The game is all about and only about X. The GM, and even the players can say what is needed to play this game as the game is very focused. So the players can just create what is needed.

The Long Game, can at best, only focus on the single immediate adventure. The game, over the years, will be potentially anything and everything. So no one can say what is needed to play the game. Each player has a character that was made, say a year ago, and they can't change characters, they are simply playing the same character, no matter the current adventure.



But, not all characters are equal. Sometimes, the problem wasn't balancing characters vs monsters, but characters vs each other. The most elegant solution I've encountered to this problem is having someone - the GM, another player, or the offending player themselves - point out that the character doesn't fit the group power level. And then have them bring a character more in line with the group.

Now this is the Other Side of Balance: Power Level. And this is very, very, very much a Modern Viewpoint.

The Classic View is that every character is different in power levels in different ways and are in no way comparable to each other or anything else. Or more simply: what is fun is different for everyone.

The Modern View is that every character is the same power level in the same ways, but still different looking to each other. Or more simply: what is fun is the same for everyone.



So why isn't this the "state of the art", or at least the "state of the practice"? Why, instead, does working together to balance a party seem like such a foreign concept to most gamers? Why has the idea of "balance to the group" or "balance to the module" fallen out of favor with the RPG community?

This is all the question of what balance is in the game. Many will say it is needed...but then have an infinite number of ideas as to what that means.

Of course, some say balance is an illusion, and no matter what you do you can't really have it.

Kiero
2017-11-18, 09:45 PM
Mmm.

The early tournament competition games were about beating a module or scenario.

The module was standardized specifically because it was intended as an adversarial challenge, and the only possible way to make that fair across different players & referees at the tournament was to have the specifics on paper in advance.

I had the misfortune to participate in one of those, in TSR's heydey in the 90s. Single worst RPG session I've ever had.

JAL_1138
2017-11-18, 10:18 PM
It comes up largely when options that are purportedly or seemingly equivalent actually aren't, which becomes apparent to someone with system mastery but not to someone without.

To those thinking this started with 3e, it goes back much further. Unearthed Arcana for 1e was widely regarded as brokenly powerful, and in 2e, there were dual-classes, multiclasses, specialist mages, druid followers, dart-fighters, a multitude of splatbooks for races and classes, and the shot-to-pieces brokenness of Player's Option: Skills and Powers that all allowed for ludicrously strong (or ludicrously weak) options. TSR had a no playtesting on company time policy during Lorraine Williams' tenure as head of the company during 2e, and it really, really showed in several books.

Although if you were playing with rolled characters and weren't allowing rerolls or free stat assignment (playing the "straight down" rolls), there was no "balance to the group"—you played what you qualified for, it would be unlikely, but possible, to roll characters who couldn't qualify for the classic Fighter, Mage, Cleric, Thief party. You might end up with three Fighters and a Thief, not a Cleric in sight.

3e certainly had its brokenness—the char op metagame is arguably the defining characteristic of it. It produced Pun-Pun, after all, and the fact that a reasonably-competently-built wizard, cleric, or druid can accidentally render a Fighter virtually irrelevant is a well-known problem. Trap options that can wreck a character's progression abound, too. But I'd contend that it's not why the problem got worse in the '00s, even though it's where it's most noticeable and familiar to many gamers.

IMO it's likely more because of teh interwebz than because of 3e. The internet makes acquiring system mastery—finding out broken/OP builds that aren't immediately obvious and avoiding trap builds—far, far easier. There's a knowledge base. People make thoroughly-researched, mathematically-sound DPR comparisons of practically every option and just post them up. Forums like this one facilitate char-op in ways that simply weren't available bofore not only the internet itself but before reliable, high-speed, non-dial-up internet became truly commonplace and affordable. That really started happening in the early '00s—around the time 3.0 and 3.5 hit.

And a lot of players and DMs don't crunch the numbers or visit boards like this, and take the system's claims of being balanced at face value, which inevitably ends up going south when someone with serious system mastery shows up with an optimized Batman-wizard or a CoDzilla.

NichG
2017-11-18, 10:31 PM
But, not all characters are equal. Sometimes, the problem wasn't balancing characters vs monsters, but characters vs each other. The most elegant solution I've encountered to this problem is having someone - the GM, another player, or the offending player themselves - point out that the character doesn't fit the group power level. And then have them bring a character more in line with the group.

None of this is new. All of this is stuff I've been using for more decades than I can remember.

So why isn't this the "state of the art", or at least the "state of the practice"? Why, instead, does working together to balance a party seem like such a foreign concept to most gamers? Why has the idea of "balance to the group" or "balance to the module" fallen out of favor with the RPG community?

* "GM" can be replaced with "players" or "group" here.

Generally, self-nerfing (either by playing below your expertise/knowledge, or by intentionally making character build choices you know are bad) is a fairly stressful thing to maintain. A large part of the motivation that drives engagement with tabletop games is some form of progression (becoming stronger, becoming more important in the setting, etc) - and the game often encourages you to work proactively towards it. So if you're trying to work proactively towards it while at the same time you're trying to maintain a certain relative level of power with the rest of the group, it detracts a lot from the experience (especially if you know exactly how the stragglers could catch up to you, but for whatever reason - and there are many valid ones - they won't do it).

I think its better to aim for a game which as a whole can sustain a wider gap between characters without there being problems, or at the very least do something where characters that are behind the curve are brought up to the strongest point, rather than having people police eachothers' characters in this way.

Techniques for doing that:

- Have a diverse set of motivations in the group, so that someone being powerful doesn't invalidate the existence of less powerful characters who want to accomplish things that the powerful character doesn't care about.
- Have a diverse set of ways in which to be 'powerful' that aren't quantifiably comparable. For example: information gathering, social power, creative ability, and destructive ability can each play out in very different ways.
- Don't try to run a particular storyline, but rather construct the game out of a set of inter-related things which could be engaged with (and which therefore can have diverse prerequisites for being able to successfully or profitably engage with them).
- Avoid spending too much time on things where the system insists on a particular kind of mechanical comparison between characters. E.g. if you spend all your time in the combat system, relative combat ability is more likely to be the only thing that matters.
- Have a 'bennies' system, which you explicitly say you're doing, where characters that lag behind for several games get a number of tailored opportunities to jump ahead in power in some way. Yes, players can try to game the bennies system by intentionally sucking long enough to get a good boost, then optimizing, but saying 'don't do that' doesn't incur the same kind of stress as 'play below your expertise' does.
- Don't overuse it, but secret information (e.g. one player gets to know privately, and chooses whether/how to tell the party) can feel empowering even if a character is mechanically weaker. So these kinds of secrets to shore up mechanically weaker characters. But this is really to be used sparingly, it gets annoying if half the game takes place on the balcony.

Grod_The_Giant
2017-11-18, 10:46 PM
So why isn't this the "state of the art", or at least the "state of the practice"? Why, instead, does working together to balance a party seem like such a foreign concept to most gamers? Why has the idea of "balance to the group" or "balance to the module" fallen out of favor with the RPG community?
I don't think it has, is the thing. Like, even on the optimization-heavy 3.x forums here, I'd say that the broad consensus is still "build a character that fits the game." The broader discussions/arguments, methinks, come about because a certain type of gamer-nerd (myself very much included) like the mechanics of the game as much as the actual experience. For us, the theory is fun; we sit around talking about how to make Monks more competitive, how to make Single Point Shining Into the Void less overpowering, how to fix the wonky scaling with Growth... not because we need such things, but because it's another way to enjoy the hobby. Compulsive tinkering, if you will.

Talakeal's point is also well-taken, though-- balance discussions are at their most common/heated in systems which are very popular (for obvious reasons) and which have limited options for realizing a character. If option X is the only easy way to easily portray archetype Y, and option X doesn't fit in most groups, you do sort of have a problem-- it gets really difficult to play said archetype without houserules.

Quertus
2017-11-18, 10:46 PM
Some groups, a (fairly unoptimized) 7th level character was too powerful for the GM to handle, and so was promoted to deity status. Some groups, running around with more artifacts than levels was the norm. Some groups, my "AC worse than paralyzed" character Amalak could survive.

There was huge diversity between groups, and so I brought a folder of characters, and tried to pick one to match the group. That, or tried to see if the character I really wanted to play would match the group.


Now there is more diversity made problematic that we are all playing the same game (RPG) but we are playing it differently

"Playing the game differently" is exactly what this technique is designed to handle...


This is pretty standard in a point buy game.

Sorry, what is standard in point buy?


1. This is a conflict of interests for the players. Players should not be made to balance themselves because their job is also to be as powerful as possible. Besides, most players want their own characters to be powerful.

Mostly true. Personally, I'm more about making things as fun as possible, being as true to the concept as possible, etc. But, when that is a conflict of interest, that's what the GM (or other players in a GM-less game?) is for.


2. Most players and GMs are unable to achieve balance even if they honestly wanted to. Most people who don't post regularly on RPG forums (and most people who do) don't know well enough how the numbers interact in order to be any good at balancing the game.

Also true. But, when one player is doing everything, and another is doing nothing - the kind of stories one hears all the time - it's pretty obvious how things are unbalanced.

Surely you're not trying to contend that humanity is populated by such dullards as could somehow be in that situation, be unhappy, and know that there is a problem, but not be able to comprehend that massive imbalance was the issue? Particularly that a whole group of such would not constitute a significant statistical anomaly?

You are merely stating the equivalent of "the perfect is the enemy of the good", right?


3. It would be pretty gross to open a gamebook and see that Lightning Bolt does 1d6 damage or 2d6 damage or 3d6 damage depending on how powerful the GM and players feel wizards should be.

Sure. But that's not the point. My carefully crafted character, who recovers mana fast enough to cast 20d6 lightning at will may not be suitable for play in the same party as a character whose big shtick is casting 5d6 lightning twice in a row, or the alpha strike character who goes first and deals 10d6 damage once.

I hate to use the word, but is that the issue? That people feel - and are being encouraged to feel - entitled to play any character that they can create, regardless of the impact on the group? That their entitlement is more important than group dynamics, than fun?

Because, if that's the issue, well, I've got an upper epic level wizard who'd love to join some 1st level adventurers.


I remember some pretty stark differences between groups, just within the very small sample size of my personal experience.

Same.


Modern games exist in the environment of the Internet, so the different ways people play are much more available for perusal & comparison.

IMHO modern games are a bit conflicted about whether they're adversarial tactical challenges or collaborative fantasy improv, and each group tends to do that mix differently, but overall we're playing a lot more similarly than we ever have before -- but the differences are more visible, since everything is more visible.

So... why hasn't that made techniques for dealing with those differences - such as the simple techniques I described - much more prominent?

Nifft
2017-11-18, 10:48 PM
Although if you were playing with rolled characters and weren't allowing rerolls or free stat assignment (playing the "straight down" rolls), there was no "balance to the group"—you played what you qualified for, it would be unlikely, but possible, to roll characters who couldn't qualify for the classic Fighter, Mage, Cleric, Thief party. You might end up with three Fighters and a Thief, not a Cleric in sight. oD&D and 1e were balanced stochastically across players, not at the character level.

You got your character stats by rolling dice with a bell curve. Eventually, you'd get a character with above average stats -- because all your previous characters died.

1e and oD&D were high-turnover games. Characters weren't balanced because they were expected to die. If a character lived for a while, that guy might get a name (but not always -- the "male elf" whose lack-of-name is now immortalized in spells like melf's acid arrow became a world-class mover & shaker, but never got a name beyond the gender + racial summary written on the sheet -- "M Elf").

2e took the old-school character stats but somewhere in the edition transition, people started to get this unreasonable expectation that their precious little named, backstory-laden, portrait-burdened character was expected to survive any given quantity of adversity.

3e continued the transition into unrealistic expectations of survival, especially at 1st level. Holy cow, 1st level is deadly, and feels like oD&D. At higher levels, the deadliness decreases remarkably... well, at least it does if you're playing a strong class. The groups I've played with universally decided to start at higher level specifically to avoid the swingy deadliness of level 1.

4e actually made it so you were a legitimate badass at level 1, and you were quite likely to survive, which is exactly what everybody wanted. Therefore everybody hated 4e.

5e low-levels seem less deadly than oD&D-3e, but not as "legit badass" as 4e.



IMO it's likely more because of teh interwebz than because of 3e.

100% agreed.

2e had the good fortune to die out at exactly the right time to avoid scrutiny, which is nice because it enables people to retain their rose-tinted nostalgia.

3e was the first edition of D&D where a player (including the DM) could look at how other tables handled various things. It's the first edition where people published their houserules for public consumption. It's the first edition where people had any hope of playing the same game from table to table.

The sunlight of public discussion has brought many positive things to D&D, but as you note, it's not an unalloyed good for all games. If there's an information asymmetry, our public discussions can exacerbate it.

Mechalich
2017-11-18, 10:57 PM
IMO it's likely more because of teh interwebz than because of 3e. The internet makes acquiring system mastery—finding out broken/OP builds that aren't immediately obvious and avoiding trap builds—far, far easier. There's a knowledge base. People make thoroughly-researched, mathematically-sound DPR comparisons of practically every option and just post them up. Forums like this one facilitate char-op in ways that simply weren't available bofore not only the internet itself but before reliable, high-speed, non-dial-up internet became truly commonplace and affordable. That really started happening in the early '00s—around the time 3.0 and 3.5 hit.

And a lot of players and DMs don't crunch the numbers or visit boards like this, and take the system's claims of being balanced at face value, which inevitably ends up going south when someone with serious system mastery shows up with an optimized Batman-wizard or a CoDzilla.

Or just when someone googles a powerful build that doesn't require a lot of system mastery to play. An ubercharger has a lot of build complexity, but the actual gameplay set up is fairly simple - charge stuff. this is actually worse in games that are less complex than D&D - because they may have 'one true build to rule them all' exist as an emergent property of the rules and with the power of the internet what it once took a massive amount of system mastery, some math, and some intuitive puzzle-solving to figure out someone can just google and replicate. For instance, the turtle-perfect charm combination in Exalted 2e - wherein a character can negate any attack of any kind no matter how damaging - is not something every table will recognize on their own but it can be explained in a couple of short paragraphs, and such characters exist on a completely different power tier from all other starting Exalted characters who don't have such a combo.

And it is very common for new players to google builds and play guides. Almost everyone who learns to play TTRPGs these days has played or been exposed to MMOs, and if you play an MMO competitively you go to guide sites to optimize your ability to run high-end content. It's what you do. Those people approach tabletop the same way because that's the expectation they have even though tabletop games are absolutely not built that way at all.

RazorChain
2017-11-19, 12:04 AM
Game balance has always been an issue.

I don't think I've ever seen an RPG that successfully mapped X characters with Y resources to Z challenge.

Old-school D&D had a really elegant solution to this problem: it's the players' problem. They need to build a team that can do the recon, and accurately determine whether or not something is a valid challenge for them, or whether they should high-tail it out of there, and let sleeping dragons lie.

That works fine in a sandbox, or a dungeon crawl, where the players have the Agency to choose what the adventure is about. But, sometimes, the GM* wants to tell a particular story, or run the characters through a particular adventure, such as a pre-built module. There, the challenge level is set, and, to play the game, the party needs to be able to handle it. They need a "you must be this tall to ride" sign.

If the GM* cares about balance, they have to evaluate the party vs some expected baseline. That baseline may be the sample characters that come with the module, or the sample party that the GM ran through their adventure, or just the GM's gut feel of what would be "about right".

But, not all characters are equal. Sometimes, the problem wasn't balancing characters vs monsters, but characters vs each other. The most elegant solution I've encountered to this problem is having someone - the GM, another player, or the offending player themselves - point out that the character doesn't fit the group power level. And then have them bring a character more in line with the group.

None of this is new. All of this is stuff I've been using for more decades than I can remember.

So why isn't this the "state of the art", or at least the "state of the practice"? Why, instead, does working together to balance a party seem like such a foreign concept to most gamers? Why has the idea of "balance to the group" or "balance to the module" fallen out of favor with the RPG community?

* "GM" can be replaced with "players" or "group" here.



I've been playing since '87 started with BECMI and moved to 2e. In those days there was no internet. You did not go to the local game store to share your build or how you could break the game. If you showed up in a game with a character with 16-18 in all stats you got scoffed at and kindly had to reroll your character. In fact your characters were so basic before the splatbooks became available that we didn't define our characters by class......my character Montiago wasn't a fighter...he was a swahsbuckler with a cutlass and a harpoon, dressed in light armor because it fitted his style. Sure I knew that by level 10, Mourngrim the wizard would start to vastly outshine my character....in everything. In a game that was mostly about combat, my job became to babysit the artillery piece.

When gaming with good friends and a good group game balance matters less. We knew the strengths of the classes and we tried to fill all roles by taking turns. My most memorable characters; Alia, the rug selling con artist in Al Qadim(rogue), Montiago the braggart swashbucker with impossibly white teeth (fighter) and Bannor Bloodstone, the frying pan wielding demon slayer and luckies sob in the whole of Faerun (cleric of Tymora) werent designed to be the most powerful, they were designed to be fun to play. What stays with me 25-30 years later isn't how powerful they were in the combat minigame. That is what balance seems to revolve about, the combat minigame or overcoming obstacles.

Nowdays you just go to the forums and I promise you if you go to the 5.e or 3.x subforums you will be immediately greeted by threads about help about builds, how powerful this or that build is or how to break the game. You can do booming blades as extra action and totally destroy this and that and that Sorcadin build totally kicks ass but you have to take 6 levels of Paladin to get that aura and if you do this you can destroy that multistage bossfight solo! And you'll be the coolest kid in town.

I tried other games than D&D after about 4 years of play, I still played D&D for another 4 years and then I was kinda done with it. In the last 20 years me and my group have occasionally tried new version of D&D, gone on a dungeon romp had a little fun and then turned back to other games, games that often don't care about balance....because my group we don't care so much about balance either. That is maybe because we aren't playing a tactical boardgame exploring dungeons trying to upend each other on a power trip. Our adventures have taken us elsewhere, this isn't so much a game to us, it's more of an experience or an escape.

Talakeal
2017-11-19, 03:14 AM
Sorry, what is standard in point buy?

Having the DM look over everyone's character sheets and telling them if they are over / under powered for the rest of the group / intended campaign.

I have yet to see anyone actually try and play a deliberately broken character though, so normally this is mostly a formality with one or two flaws / problematic traits pointed out though.

tensai_oni
2017-11-19, 04:44 AM
The issue isn't that people don't care about game balance. In my experience, vast majority of them do to at least a certain extent.

The issue is that so many of them are rubbish at it. They let preconceptions, prejudices and lack of system mastery color their impressions on what is over or underpowered and what isn't. Additionally many of them take a statement that their favorite class (or class equivalent) is unbalanced as some kind of personal attack, which automatically makes them defensive.

This is not something that will change with time. It's all parts of human nature so it's here to stay.



The Classic View is that every character is different in power levels in different ways and are in no way comparable to each other or anything else. Or more simply: what is fun is different for everyone.

The Modern View is that every character is the same power level in the same ways, but still different looking to each other. Or more simply: what is fun is the same for everyone.

Hello, I will call this statement out.

A "modern" (or rather good game design in general) view isn't that everyone wants the same things from the game and has fun the same way. Quite the opposite, it assumes players are different and approach the game and character building in different ways - which means they will take many different options, and here's the important thing: these options should all be viable, providing at least a solid base of competence in what the character is supposed to do, as opposed to being crap because the player didn't crunch the numbers enough or is inexperienced and doesn't know martial characters are crap after level 6 or so.

A good game design says "what I like should be good, what other people like should also be good". What your statement says is "I played an underpowered character but dealt with it, so should you". Which one is reinforcing uniformity, again?

WarKitty
2017-11-19, 04:49 AM
I think one issue is that knowing that there is a balance issue, doesn't necessarily translate to knowing how to fix it. I went through this with my first group - we could tell we had a balance issue, but every possible solution pretty much hit "but then I can't play a character I actually find interesting enough to show up with."

Knaight
2017-11-19, 05:21 AM
IMHO modern games are a bit conflicted about whether they're adversarial tactical challenges or collaborative fantasy improv, and each group tends to do that mix differently, but overall we're playing a lot more similarly than we ever have before -- but the differences are more visible, since everything is more visible.

I don't buy this at all - modern games is a category that includes D&D, Microscope, and Fiasco. These are radically divergent games, some of which exist largely outside the adversarial tactical challenges to collaborative fantasy improv scale (which admittedly can be left by just dodging the fantasy genre).

Darth Ultron
2017-11-19, 09:05 AM
. Quite the opposite, it assumes players are different and approach the game and character building in different ways - which means they will take many different options

The problem is much more they they all want to play the game the same way.



and here's the important thing: these options should all be viable, providing at least a solid base of competence in what the character is supposed to do, as opposed to being crap because the player didn't crunch the numbers enough or is inexperienced and doesn't know martial characters are crap after level 6 or so.

This is a bit tricky as a lot of game mechanics in a lot of games simply don't work or are broken. But if you play a game with a lot of numbers...then, well, you do have to crunch the numbers as that is part of the game.



A good game design says "what I like should be good, what other people like should also be good". What your statement says is "I played an underpowered character but dealt with it, so should you". Which one is reinforcing uniformity, again?

Notice how you switch from ''good'' to ''power'', why do you do that?

Just compare Old School vs Modern:

Modern Game: As soon as a foe is in sight Everyone at the table is just falling over themselves to roll and attack and make a meaningful contribution to the combat. The Fighter character rushes forward; the cleric rushes forward or blasts or zaps away, the wizard blast or zaps or casts away and the rogue, who is for some reason a massive murderhobo ''striker'', rushes forward..but to the side a bit. Each player is very obsessed with killing foes, and they are carefully counting damage points and other effects to judge how ''good and balanced'' their character and the game is constantly. So if the player of the wizard zaps a foe for 30 points of damage and kill it, each other player will feel the need to do ''at least'' 30 points of damage...or some other equivalent to a foe. But as soon as one character does 30 points of damage or some other equivalent a couple times, and the other characters are ''stuck'' doing 20 points of damage or some other equivalent, the players will start to complain about balance. All character are expected to be the same and equal...just look different.

Old School: When a monster is encountered the fighter still rushes forward and fights. The cleric here too, most often rushes forward; they have only a few combat and damaging spells, are much more focused on healing and cures, and often just have to ''fight like the fighter''. The wizard and thief(rouge) often hang back and do not fight at all. The wizard or thief will often only make a ranged attack at an exposed monster, and much more rarely vs a foe in melee. Often the wizard and thief only fight if they are cornered. They can still take lots of actions during an encounter, just not direct combat. Both the wizard and the thief do keep their eyes open for something they can take advantage of in an encounter, but more often then not they just hang back and wait. Here, each player is not so focused on killing foes or counting damage points or other effects. Each character just does their own thing. The idea of power balance is not even a vague thought.

Or simply:

Modern: Every Character Must be an individual Fair and Balanced Superstar...but look and feel different. The focus here is very much on the individual and what they do more then anything.

Old School: Each character is part of the group and has a unique role in the group...and the group is better with each character being different in every way possible. The focus here is on the group and what they can do as a whole.

The basic game play has three parts: Combat, Actions(aka non-combat or utility) and Role Playing.

In Old School classes like the fighter and cleric did combat, wizard and thief did actions, and everyone role played. And if the game was at a part that your character did not do...you simply waited.

Modern, oddly, put the focus on everyone must dog-pile into combat always, the wizard/thief do actions and the bard role played. Oddly they still kept the fighter/ranger/cleric out of actions, and even more oddly discourage role play from everyone.



Also true. But, when one player is doing everything, and another is doing nothing - the kind of stories one hears all the time - it's pretty obvious how things are unbalanced.


Well, maybe not.

First, some players/people are dominant and some are submissive...this is just the way things are. Some people move to the front and do everything....some people allow this to happen...and some people move to the back and try to do as little as possible.

Second, a lot of the time this is a game play issue...or more to the point: how the game is run by the DM. Is the DM in control or just in charge? This has a huge effect on game play:

The In Charge DM just sees themselves as a Player in the game, there just to set up things for the other (real) players, react to the real players and occasionally make a rule call. They just let the game ''flow'' from the players and don't do much, if anything, else.

The In Control DM sees themselves as a DM: the sole person creating an artificial setting in a game for the single purpose of everyone having fun. They are there to create, control and make the fun happen and do everything ''behind the screen'' to make it happen.

An easy way to see this in a game is with something like Stealth. Like say making a tower outpost:

The In Charge DM just makes the tower outpost based on whatever they want, then let the players encounter it, react to it and do whatever the players want.

The In Control DM specifically makes at least one way to sneak into the tower for the stealth Player to find and use. The player does not ''have'' to use it, but it is right there to use. In this case, it is a waste drain pipe.

The real key here is the pre made relevant details. When a DM makes something like a tower outpost...they can only make ''so much''. And more so they will really only make what is needed and what will be used in game play. The tower has a storeroom of food, but the DM does not need to make exactly what food is in that store room down to the pound.

So if a DM was to make a tower outpost...they might or might not make the waste drain pipe. A few In Charge Dm's might add this detail, many who do think of it would still not add it and a great many would not even think of it.

The In Control DM, however, is specifically making a way to sneak into the tower, so the waste drain pipe(or something else) will all ways be there. Always. For the players to find and use...if they wish to.

The in charge DM is putting the whole huge burden on the players...even more specifically the stealth character player. They are saying ''here is the tower, you figure out what you want to do, then tell me''. This is great, but only for the handful of players that will be thinking ''outside the box'' and look for and ask about ways to sneak it. Sadly, however, that vast bulk of all player/people just won't be able to think of anything.

And this is only ten times worse in the Quickly Made From Nothing Type Game. When the DM is just reacting to the players saying ''we look to the North to see if there is a tower outpost there'', the DM only has a couple seconds to say ''yup, there is a tower there'' as the DM makes the tower out of nothing even as they say it is there. The tower has no details, of course...but they slowly do get added over the next couple minutes as the character looks around in game the players ask questions and the DM makes up stuff quickly on the fly...but only in response to the players direct questions. So in this case, the Quick DM does not even have a chance to think of anything, like a stealth way in, they only have time to respond to questions. So ultimately the tower is whatever the players ask about it....and should a player, amazingly say, is there a sewer drainage from the tower somewhere, then the DM will ''suddenly'' make it...but only if a player mentions it.

The pre made outpost tower all ready has the waste drain pipe coming out of the hill on the south side of the tower. If the characters go past the area, they will see it or even might make a listen check to hear the running water or something like that. And when the characters look around, there is a good chance of them finding it....


Now, just to be clear, neither way above is better, they are just different. But the In-control DM's way does provide a bit of help to the players...and that can make a huge difference in game play.

tensai_oni
2017-11-19, 11:09 AM
Notice how you switch from ''good'' to ''power'', why do you do that?

Two reasons. First is to use some variation of my sentences instead of repeating "good good good" like a broken record.

Second reason is if I said "I played a bad character" instead of an "underpowered" one, many people would get defensive because they'd feel I am attacking them. Even if from an objective point of view, playing a martial character in 3.5e D&D for example? Yeah, that's a bad choice.



Modern Game: As soon as a foe is in sight Everyone at the table is just falling over themselves to roll and attack and make a meaningful contribution to the combat.

Please explain to me how a situation where everyone meaningfully contributes to an encounter as opposed to half the party sitting on their hands and doing nothing is supposed to be a bad thing.



In Old School classes like the fighter and cleric did combat, wizard and thief did actions, and everyone role played. And if the game was at a part that your character did not do...you simply waited.

Modern, oddly, put the focus on everyone must dog-pile into combat always, the wizard/thief do actions and the bard role played. Oddly they still kept the fighter/ranger/cleric out of actions, and even more oddly discourage role play from everyone.

Bolded for emphasis. Where did this come from? Please explain to me how reducing player character agency improves their roleplaying. Unless you are operating on some weird mutation of stormwind fallacy, where PCs who are doing something during an encounter aren't roleplaying, while those who do nothing are roleplaying.

Frankly this feels like a transparent effort of reinforcing your position by saying that people who disagree with you simply aren't real roleplayers.

GreatWyrmGold
2017-11-19, 11:09 AM
-snip-

So why isn't this the "state of the art", or at least the "state of the practice"? Why, instead, does working together to balance a party seem like such a foreign concept to most gamers? Why has the idea of "balance to the group" or "balance to the module" fallen out of favor with the RPG community?
I'll admit that I wasn't even alive during this golden age of gaming where everyone knew the game was out of balance and worked together through it, dammit, but I've seen enough stories like it to know that it's probably a myth, just like every nostalgic golden age where these problems everyone complains about didn't exist.
As to why this is a problem...well, there are a few issues. First, every player is going to want to make their character as powerful as they can. Sometimes it's out of a desire to be the best and the coolest, but it can equally well be out of a desire not to make things harder for everyone else for something ephemeral like "balance". (Imagine someone pulling this (https://youtu.be/yyN7rPbHybk?t=9m19s) in your campaign.) Heck, it might just be ignorance. "What're you talking about? Your fighter hits the bad guys a lot, I'm sure that's as important as my spells." Second, even if they see the issue and want to fix it, it might not be clear how to build/play your characters so they neither overshadow nor are overshadowed by other characters. It's not an easy question! On a third and related note: If professional game designers have trouble balancing encounters, what the flying frell makes you think every Average Joe Gamer is going to be able to handle it? "They know their characters better than anyone?" Technically true, but I don't think their backstories or personalities will affect game balance much, so that just leaves mechanics, and the designers know those better than anyone. Because...you know...they designed them. And because it's their job to understand them, whereas Joe's job is to understand municipal water supplies or whatever.

That's not getting into nitty-gritty details like "most people don't know how their characters will play until they play them". I recently got a big lesson in that when I decided to play an occultist. Turns out, its powers aren't great in combat, the flexibility isn't as useful as I'd thought, the spells I'd chosen weren't helping with the situations we came across, and there weren't many investigative sections where occultist abilities shine better. It all came down to the mechanics intersecting with each other, the other players' characters, and the DM's...style in ways that I couldn't possibly have predicted until it was too late.



1e and oD&D were high-turnover games. Characters weren't balanced because they were expected to die. If a character lived for a while, that guy might get a name (but not always -- the "male elf" whose lack-of-name is now immortalized in spells like melf's acid arrow became a world-class mover & shaker, but never got a name beyond the gender + racial summary written on the sheet -- "M Elf").
That's a hilarious story that I hope is true.
I kinda want to try a game like that, but it'd have to be one where character creation wasn't horribly involved. Maybe Traveller, but with some serious automation? Hm...



And it is very common for new players to google builds and play guides. Almost everyone who learns to play TTRPGs these days has played or been exposed to MMOs, and if you play an MMO competitively you go to guide sites to optimize your ability to run high-end content. It's what you do. Those people approach tabletop the same way because that's the expectation they have even though tabletop games are absolutely not built that way at all.
It's not an aspect of MMO culture (or at least not just an aspect of that). I've never played an MMO for more than an hour (unless you count Kingdom of Loathing, I guess), but I still looked up a guide for that occultist character when I found out I could use Occult Adventures. Why? Because it was a rules system I wasn't familiar with, and I didn't have the time to try to absorb all of the mechanical implications of all the classes that looked neat and all of their options.
If anything, it's an aspect of the information age. "I could try to analyze this stuff myself...or I could look up someone who knows what they're doing, read their analysis, and build on that."




Notice how you switch from ''good'' to ''power'', why do you do that?
Wild guess--because "powerful" and "good at doing stuff" are synonyms?


Just compare Old School vs Modern:

-snip-

Modern: Every Character Must be an individual Fair and Balanced Superstar...but look and feel different. The focus here is very much on the individual and what they do more then anything.

Old School: Each character is part of the group and has a unique role in the group...and the group is better with each character being different in every way possible. The focus here is on the group and what they can do as a whole.
Bullcrap.
I might not have experience from these halcyon days, but I have secondhand experience from my father's gaming stories...and, I suspect, from my father's DMing and playing style. I've also played an AD&D game DMed by one of his old gaming buddies. None of these suggest that "modern gaming" focuses more on the individual and "classic gaming" more on the group. Either my father's gaming group were the harbingers of a new era of gaming, or your nostalgia is clogging up your rationality. And given that this dichotomy is mixed with crap like this:

In Old School classes like the fighter and cleric did combat, wizard and thief did actions, and everyone role played. And if the game was at a part that your character did not do...you simply waited.
Modern, oddly, put the focus on everyone must dog-pile into combat always, the wizard/thief do actions and the bard role played. Oddly they still kept the fighter/ranger/cleric out of actions, and even more oddly discourage role play from everyone.
Asserting that modern gaming discourages roleplaying (despite the newest edition of D&D being the one where the designers made sure players had to pick more of their personality/background than an alignment, and despite older editions expecting your characters to die before they could be developed, and the fact that your assertions fail to hold up in any situation I've been able to test them in) is a common trope in the Halcyon Days of Roleplaying Before All These Dang Vidya Games stories I hear.


First, some players/people are dominant and some are submissive...this is just the way things are. Some people move to the front and do everything....some people allow this to happen...and some people move to the back and try to do as little as possible.
It's not all "This person is just dominant". Take my Pathfinder occultist, for instance. Once I realized I wasn't contributing to combat, I found myself caring less about what I did in it. I could summon a weak critter who barely serves as a distraction...shoot the bad guy and maybe roll a 20...hope he fails his save against glitterdust this time, except my allies would be in the area...
I became a "submissive" player who let others move to the front and do everything because my character was incapable.

[quote]In-Charge/In-Control/QUOTE]
So...if I understand this, the in-charge DM designs adventures and lets players create solutions, while the in-control DM designs challenges with solutions and lets the players find them. And then there are the on-the-fly adventures ("Quick DM"), which are another beast entirely.
This is all very interesting, but what the HFIL does it have to do with anything?

Nifft
2017-11-19, 11:13 AM
I don't buy this at all - modern games is a category that includes D&D, Microscope, and Fiasco. These are radically divergent games, some of which exist largely outside the adversarial tactical challenges to collaborative fantasy improv scale (which admittedly can be left by just dodging the fantasy genre).

I should have said, "modern D&D games."

Good catch, you're absolutely right about Fiasco etc.

Quertus
2017-11-19, 11:27 AM
It really does seem to be an issue after 2000 and 3E.

Agreed. Although I have seen it in other, non-D&D games in this era, too.


Now Sandbox or Story game does not matter(and after all a sandbox game becomes a story game after a bit of game play anyway), it is more Short game vs Long game.


Interesting. I mean, one does hope that the players show interest in and pick up some of the elements in the sandbox, and that they become part of the story that they want to tell. But, when the first level characters decide that they want to do something about the Dragon Lords of Athas, that's usually a long-term goal that they build towards, not something they act on right away. The "you must be this tall to ride" sign generally means "oh, not yet" rather than, "oops, I brought the wrong character".


Although if you were playing with rolled characters and weren't allowing rerolls or free stat assignment (playing the "straight down" rolls), there was no "balance to the group"—you played what you qualified for, it would be unlikely, but possible, to roll characters who couldn't qualify for the classic Fighter, Mage, Cleric, Thief party. You might end up with three Fighters and a Thief, not a Cleric in sight.

Ah, English. I was discussing relative ability of characters to contribute, not having your bases covered, when talking about party balance.


It comes up largely when options that are purportedly or seemingly equivalent actually aren't, which becomes apparent to someone with system mastery but not to someone without.

To those thinking this started with 3e, it goes back much further. Unearthed Arcana for 1e was widely regarded as brokenly powerful, and in 2e, there were dual-classes, multiclasses, specialist mages, druid followers, dart-fighters, a multitude of splatbooks for races and classes, and the shot-to-pieces brokenness of Player's Option: Skills and Powers that all allowed for ludicrously strong (or ludicrously weak) options. TSR had a no playtesting on company time policy during Lorraine Williams' tenure as head of the company during 2e, and it really, really showed in several books.


3e certainly had its brokenness—the char op metagame is arguably the defining characteristic of it. It produced Pun-Pun, after all, and the fact that a reasonably-competently-built wizard, cleric, or druid can accidentally render a Fighter virtually irrelevant is a well-known problem. Trap options that can wreck a character's progression abound, too. But I'd contend that it's not why the problem got worse in the '00s, even though it's where it's most noticeable and familiar to many gamers.

IMO it's likely more because of teh interwebz than because of 3e. The internet makes acquiring system mastery—finding out broken/OP builds that aren't immediately obvious and avoiding trap builds—far, far easier. There's a knowledge base. People make thoroughly-researched, mathematically-sound DPR comparisons of practically every option and just post them up. Forums like this one facilitate char-op in ways that simply weren't available bofore not only the internet itself but before reliable, high-speed, non-dial-up internet became truly commonplace and affordable. That really started happening in the early '00s—around the time 3.0 and 3.5 hit.

And a lot of players and DMs don't crunch the numbers or visit boards like this, and take the system's claims of being balanced at face value, which inevitably ends up going south when someone with serious system mastery shows up with an optimized Batman-wizard or a CoDzilla.

While I largely agree with this, my perspective is slightly different, as my play groups include the ability to create many of these TO characters even without the internet. See some of my crazy 2e builds.

But, even so, I'd never played with a player who didn't get it before. At worst, a word from the GM, or me running something exponentially stronger than them and then asking, "how about we scale back to the party's level, eh?" was all it ever took to restore an "everyone can contribute" level of balance.

As to trap options... I'm not seeing where that differs from rolling straight 9's - if you find that the character cannot contribute, have them retrain, or build a new character. That, and evaluate why the character could not contribute, so that you don't simply repeat your mistakes.


Generally, self-nerfing (either by playing below your expertise/knowledge, or by intentionally making character build choices you know are bad) is a fairly stressful thing to maintain. A large part of the motivation that drives engagement with tabletop games is some form of progression (becoming stronger, becoming more important in the setting, etc) - and the game often encourages you to work proactively towards it. So if you're trying to work proactively towards it while at the same time you're trying to maintain a certain relative level of power with the rest of the group, it detracts a lot from the experience (especially if you know exactly how the stragglers could catch up to you, but for whatever reason - and there are many valid ones - they won't do it).

Ah, now this is an interesting point. A 2e Fighter specialized in the Flind Bars had a pretty set, predictable power curve. A Marvel superhero with Monstrous Strength had a pretty set, predictable power curve. But 3e introduced build options that take effect later in the game in such number and diversity, that who your character is at the start of the game does not in any way predict how powerful they will be later.


I think its better to aim for a game which as a whole can sustain a wider gap between characters without there being problems, or at the very least do something where characters that are behind the curve are brought up to the strongest point, rather than having people police eachothers' characters in this way.

Strongly agree. In fact, I like to see and encourage increased capacity for handling divergent power levels at both the system and the group level, too.


I don't think it has, is the thing. Like, even on the optimization-heavy 3.x forums here, I'd say that the broad consensus is still "build a character that fits the game." The broader discussions/arguments, methinks, come about because a certain type of gamer-nerd (myself very much included) like the mechanics of the game as much as the actual experience. For us, the theory is fun; we sit around talking about how to make Monks more competitive, how to make Single Point Shining Into the Void less overpowering, how to fix the wonky scaling with Growth... not because we need such things, but because it's another way to enjoy the hobby. Compulsive tinkering, if you will.

Hmmm... Respectfully disagree. I love to tinker and talk shop, but that's not the same as applying a power range to a party to make the game more fun for all. Even ignoring my personal experience, I've seen too many posts of players whose characters clearly outshine the rest of the party, where both they and their group have clearly never considered toning them back / boosting the other PCs to make things more balanced. Let alone stories of "problem players" who were simply above or below the party curve.

Not that balance is synonymous with fun, mind, but when imbalance has clearly been detrimental to fun, why isn't there an automatic "this character doesn't match the party / adventure" response, like there was decades ago?


Talakeal's point is also well-taken, though-- balance discussions are at their most common/heated in systems which are very popular (for obvious reasons) and which have limited options for realizing a character. If option X is the only easy way to easily portray archetype Y, and option X doesn't fit in most groups, you do sort of have a problem-- it gets really difficult to play said archetype without houserules.

True. Having a concept that doesn't fit at any of my tables - that one makes me a sad panda. :smallfrown:


the "male elf" whose lack-of-name is now immortalized in spells like melf's acid arrow became a world-class mover & shaker, but never got a name beyond the gender + racial summary written on the sheet -- "M Elf").

And I will never look at Melf the same way again.


4e actually made it so you were a legitimate badass at level 1, and you were quite likely to survive, which is exactly what everybody wanted. Therefore everybody hated 4e.

Oddly, I was too busy feeling drab in 4e to even notice whether or not my shade of grey was more powerful than my old colorful characters at 1st level.


2e had the good fortune to die out at exactly the right time to avoid scrutiny, which is nice because it enables people to retain their rose-tinted nostalgia.

3e was the first edition of D&D where a player (including the DM) could look at how other tables handled various things. It's the first edition where people published their houserules for public consumption. It's the first edition where people had any hope of playing the same game from table to table.

The sunlight of public discussion has brought many positive things to D&D, but as you note, it's not an unalloyed good for all games. If there's an information asymmetry, our public discussions can exacerbate it.

IME, every 2e party was unbalanced, just a) the gulf wasn't as big as in 3e; b) it didn't matter as much even if it was. Yet, even so, we seemed to have had better tools to deal with imbalance ("dude, bring something else so the other players can play, too") than we do now. When, you know, it seems like those tools would really come in handy now.


I've been playing since '87 started with BECMI and moved to 2e. In those days there was no internet. You did not go to the local game store to share your build or how you could break the game. If you showed up in a game with a character with 16-18 in all stats you got scoffed at and kindly had to reroll your character. In fact your characters were so basic before the splatbooks became available that we didn't define our characters by class......my character Montiago wasn't a fighter...he was a swahsbuckler with a cutlass and a harpoon, dressed in light armor because it fitted his style. Sure I knew that by level 10, Mourngrim the wizard would start to vastly outshine my character....in everything. In a game that was mostly about combat, my job became to babysit the artillery piece.

When gaming with good friends and a good group game balance matters less. We knew the strengths of the classes and we tried to fill all roles by taking turns. My most memorable characters; Alia, the rug selling con artist in Al Qadim(rogue), Montiago the braggart swashbucker with impossibly white teeth (fighter) and Bannor Bloodstone, the frying pan wielding demon slayer and luckies sob in the whole of Faerun (cleric of Tymora) werent designed to be the most powerful, they were designed to be fun to play. What stays with me 25-30 years later isn't how powerful they were in the combat minigame. That is what balance seems to revolve about, the combat minigame or overcoming obstacles.

Nowdays you just go to the forums and I promise you if you go to the 5.e or 3.x subforums you will be immediately greeted by threads about help about builds, how powerful this or that build is or how to break the game. You can do booming blades as extra action and totally destroy this and that and that Sorcadin build totally kicks ass but you have to take 6 levels of Paladin to get that aura and if you do this you can destroy that multistage bossfight solo! And you'll be the coolest kid in town.

I tried other games than D&D after about 4 years of play, I still played D&D for another 4 years and then I was kinda done with it. In the last 20 years me and my group have occasionally tried new version of D&D, gone on a dungeon romp had a little fun and then turned back to other games, games that often don't care about balance....because my group we don't care so much about balance either. That is maybe because we aren't playing a tactical boardgame exploring dungeons trying to upend each other on a power trip. Our adventures have taken us elsewhere, this isn't so much a game to us, it's more of an experience or an escape.

Sounds like your get what I'm talking about. And, is your contention that, because the game focus moved away from "fun" to "power", people lost the ability to call each other out for mismatched power levels?


I have yet to see anyone actually try and play a deliberately broken character though, so normally this is mostly a formality with one or two flaws / problematic traits pointed out though.

I made Amalak, the "AC worse than paralyzed" character. I constantly try to break the game (or, as the Giant more tactfully put it, "tinker"). Because that's what's fun for me. I play Battletech to build mechs - the actual wargaming fighting part is of secondary interest to me.

So, technically, I can't be in a group that doesn't include that mindset, because I bring it with me, and I can't be in a group that doesn't include me. :smalltongue:


I think one issue is that knowing that there is a balance issue, doesn't necessarily translate to knowing how to fix it. I went through this with my first group - we could tell we had a balance issue, but every possible solution pretty much hit "but then I can't play a character I actually find interesting enough to show up with."

Sad panda. As I love derailing asides, what concepts did people have that were completely incompatible with game balance?

Geddy2112
2017-11-19, 11:37 AM
I have seen balance be an issue in some games, but at my table, it is rarely a problem. I suppose everyone at my table knows how to work together. Hell, we recently booted a player because they didn't understand that there is no I in team.

We mostly play pathfinder, our group is fairly intelligent(at least well educated) and we all have access to the internet. A couple of players(myself being one) had a strong grip on the rules and have combed forums, tables, obscure source material, and class guides for very strong and possibly gamebreaking combinations. When we build characters, most of the group minmaxes our point buy, spells, races to fit classes, what have you.

All of this, and we have never had anyone break the game or be out of balance with the party, adventure, or anything like that. We avoid this entirely by having a gentleman's agreement to simply not make pun pun, rule hacks for infinite money and the like. We also build as a group with a session zero so that everyone is on the same page for the campaign and party. As a table, we all work together(GM included) and balance is never an issue.

Balance also serves to keep the metagame intact-if I build pun pun and become a god in the first session, I could destroy the entire world. Okay, then what? Campaign over, nobody did anything, nobody got to roleplay, we didn't get to have any fun adventuring or interacting with the world. It is one of those fun things to do once, but if you just want to press the win button, why play ttRPG's at all? That's my 2coppers(and my table consensus) so nothing wrong if you are into that, but you probably won't fit in at my table.

GreatWyrmGold
2017-11-19, 11:41 AM
As to trap options... I'm not seeing where that differs from rolling straight 9's - if you find that the character cannot contribute, have them retrain, or build a new character. That, and evaluate why the character could not contribute, so that you don't simply repeat your mistakes.
You're not seeing the difference because you're thinking about it from a detached, theoretical perspective. On the ground? One is "caused by" the dice, and hence not "the player's fault". The other is "caused by" a player's uninformed decision, and hence is "the players fault". An outside observer might note that the player couldn't make an informed choice, and can't be harshly judged for the results of his ignorance...but people aren't so logical.


Hmmm... Respectfully disagree. I love to tinker and talk shop, but that's not the same as applying a power range to a party to make the game more fun for all. Even ignoring my personal experience, I've seen too many posts of players whose characters clearly outshine the rest of the party, where both they and their group have clearly never considered toning them back / boosting the other PCs to make things more balanced. Let alone stories of "problem players" who were simply above or below the party curve.
Again, theory versus practice. Everyone agrees that player characters should be on balance with the party, and very few people set out to try and make an obscenely powerful character who outshines the rest of the party. That doesn't mean things turn out that way.


Not that balance is synonymous with fun, mind, but when imbalance has clearly been detrimental to fun, why isn't there an automatic "this character doesn't match the party / adventure" response, like there was decades ago?
Have you responded to any of the people questioning whether or not it really was like that, decades ago?


Sounds like your get what I'm talking about. And, is your contention that, because the game focus moved away from "fun" to "power", people lost the ability to call each other out for mismatched power levels?
Speaking as someone who's been gaming recently with a couple people who honestly do play D&D a bit like an MMO...you're looking at it wrong. They're trying to make the most powerful characters they can, but not for its own sake. Power is a means, but the ends is still fun.
And, mind, that's not inherently bad for the game. (Aside from that one guy who tries to cheat to make himself more of a badass, but that's honestly the least of his problems.) Another guy makes powerful beatsticks because he likes making and playing powerful beatsticks. And there's a third guy who likes breaking the game for its own sake, often making powerful characters in the process, but he's doing it because the characters are fun to play (and/or because he finds annoying the DM funny), not for its own sake.
If you're looking at this problem through a flawed lens, you're never going to find the truth.

Quertus
2017-11-19, 11:44 AM
I'll admit that I wasn't even alive during this golden age of gaming where everyone knew the game was out of balance and worked together through it, dammit, but I've seen enough stories like it to know that it's probably a myth, just like every nostalgic golden age where these problems everyone complains about didn't exist.

Well, I'm talking from personal experience, which does introduce one bit of bias: every group I'm talking about contained me.


IAs to why this is a problem...well, there are a few issues. First, every player is going to want to make their character as powerful as they can. Sometimes it's out of a desire to be the best and the coolest, but it can equally well be out of a desire not to make things harder for everyone else for something ephemeral like "balance". (Imagine someone pulling this (https://youtu.be/yyN7rPbHybk?t=9m19s) in your campaign.) Heck, it might just be ignorance. "What're you talking about? Your fighter hits the bad guys a lot, I'm sure that's as important as my spells." Second, even if they see the issue and want to fix it, it might not be clear how to build/play your characters so they neither overshadow nor are overshadowed by other characters. It's not an easy question! On a third and related note: If professional game designers have trouble balancing encounters, what the flying frell makes you think every Average Joe Gamer is going to be able to handle it? "They know their characters better than anyone?" Technically true, but I don't think their backstories or personalities will affect game balance much, so that just leaves mechanics, and the designers know those better than anyone. Because...you know...they designed them. And because it's their job to understand them, whereas Joe's job is to understand municipal water supplies or whatever.

Personally, I'm happy that Spider-Man and Quasar and Hulk and Tom Jones and Angel and Thor all have very different power levels, but are all playable in Marvel superheroes. The System allows and enables you to play whatever character you want, but leaves considerations of balance to the group. Where it belongs, IMO.

Why do modern players, like yourself, seem to feel that most of those superheroes are invalid concepts, because balance should have been handled at the system level?

Quertus
2017-11-19, 11:58 AM
You're not seeing the difference because you're thinking about it from a detached, theoretical perspective. On the ground? One is "caused by" the dice, and hence not "the player's fault". The other is "caused by" a player's uninformed decision, and hence is "the players fault". An outside observer might note that the player couldn't make an informed choice, and can't be harshly judged for the results of his ignorance...but people aren't so logical.

I mean, I've been that guy. I poked at the system, and built Mr. Horrible. And, once I confirmed that he was horrible, I scraped him, and built a new character.


Again, theory versus practice. Everyone agrees that player characters should be on balance with the party, and very few people set out to try and make an obscenely powerful character who outshines the rest of the party. That doesn't mean things turn out that way.

Well, I only agree that everyone should have the capability to contribute. I'm not a personal fan of balance.

But, when a lack of ability to contribute stems from a lack of balance, then it seems easy to me to say, "boost X" or "lower Y".


Have you responded to any of the people questioning whether or not it really was like that, decades ago?

? It was like that, in my rather extensive experience. But, then again, my experience is, oddly, exclusively with groups which contained me, a rather vocal advocate of people getting to have fun. YMMV


Speaking as someone who's been gaming recently with a couple people who honestly do play D&D a bit like an MMO...you're looking at it wrong. They're trying to make the most powerful characters they can, but not for its own sake. Power is a means, but the ends is still fun.
And, mind, that's not inherently bad for the game. (Aside from that one guy who tries to cheat to make himself more of a badass, but that's honestly the least of his problems.) Another guy makes powerful beatsticks because he likes making and playing powerful beatsticks. And there's a third guy who likes breaking the game for its own sake, often making powerful characters in the process, but he's doing it because the characters are fun to play (and/or because he finds annoying the DM funny), not for its own sake.
If you're looking at this problem through a flawed lens, you're never going to find the truth.

Seeker of Truth. I like that title.

So, are you contending that a better dichotomy would be "fun through characterization" vs "fun through power"?

wumpus
2017-11-19, 12:10 PM
Old school vs. New school balance should be a lot easier to understand. Not only were the players expected to avoid/run away from encounters they couldn't win, the DM was expect to create the rules on the spot for a balanced game. The whole idea of RAW is simply alien to AD&D and the concept doesn't make sense. Once players expected the DM to "follow the rules", balance became difficult (I'm certainly that WOTC strongly encouraged these attitudes to sell more books).

The other obvious catch is that while "encounter levels" should give strong indications of difficulty, there is always the issue of players working "outside the box" to trivialize an encounter (the flip side is Tucker's Kobolds turning the tables on the players). No DM will ever come up with all the potential ideas to break a game that the players will (although possibly having an adventure critiqued on a board such as this might help). Published playtested adventures will in turn never quite have the DMs all acting the same (I really wonder what B2 and the G-series would be like played "correctly" (i.e. the monsters all join together [at least within the same tribe] to fight off the players). I played those at far too young at age to get it).

- Note: I really didn't dig into the breakage of 1e's Unearthed Arcana (except for the disaster of just how easy it was to get a STR 19 Paladin or Chavalier: note to later players, thanks to "exceptional strength" the bonuses for 19 strength were huge). I *did* note that they attempted to "fix" the balance issues by making the new classes "not play well with others", but this was an obvious role playing disaster (the paladin not only had full veto control about party actions, he now was forced to fight only for his own glory). I suppose the "proficiency mastery" bit was obviously overpowered, but it mostly just made low level fighters more powerful and shouldn't break everything else (but if you could get a bunch of low-level henchman who had mastered their weapons...).

Bogwoppit
2017-11-19, 12:26 PM
...(I really wonder what B2 and the G-series would be like played "correctly" (i.e. the monsters all join together [at least within the same tribe] to fight off the players). I played those at far too young at age to get it)
...

It's usually a party massacre, even when the party are higher level than the adventure is meant to be.
Smart monsters played smart will punch way above their CR.

GreatWyrmGold
2017-11-19, 01:21 PM
Personally, I'm happy that Spider-Man and Quasar and Hulk and Tom Jones and Angel and Thor all have very different power levels, but are all playable in Marvel superheroes. The System allows and enables you to play whatever character you want, but leaves considerations of balance to the group. Where it belongs, IMO.

Why do modern players, like yourself, seem to feel that most of those superheroes are invalid concepts, because balance should have been handled at the system level?
The question is wrong.
The Hulk and Spider-Man and Dr. Strange and so on are all excellent characters in the context of Marvel's comics (and movies and whatnot). However, they would be terrible characters in, say, Earth Bet or the 40k universe. What works in one does not always work in another.
Similarly, what works for Marvel won't work for your tabletop RPG. Let's take the heroes from the first Avengers movie--Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye. Most of the players are annoyed that all the NPCs are giving the Captain extra respect just because of what he wrote in his backstory, Widow and Hawkeye are almost useless in most combat situations, Bruce loses control at the point where everyone else is having the most fun, Tony is distracted sketching up ideas for future suits, and Thor's just killing time until his power-up a few adventures down the road. What on Midgard possessed you to make you think that this would be a fun game to play?
It gets worse when you look at, say, the Justice League. They work as a team in all the same media as the Avengers, but the issues from their power disparity are even more obvious.



Well, I only agree that everyone should have the capability to contribute. I'm not a personal fan of balance.
Tell me, how do you define "balance"? Because the response I want to give is something like "Balance is the capability to contribute," but that's not going to help anyone if we don't read it the same way.


But, when a lack of ability to contribute stems from a lack of balance, then it seems easy to me to say, "boost X" or "lower Y".
I've already gone on a rant about how game design isn't that frelling easy. I'm not repeating myself.

[quote]Seeker of Truth. I like that title.
So, are you contending that a better dichotomy would be "fun through characterization" vs "fun through power"?
I know, right? But most Seekers prefer to be called "scientists" for some reason.
Anyways...if I had to pick a dichotomy, that would be better. But it's not a dichotomy. That system-abusing guy I mentioned last post likes messing around mechanically and also messing around in-character. The character he's playing in our current Storm King's Thunder campaign is half of an ettin, which he's used both to mess around with the system and to mess around as a big dullard with a loose grasp of what it means to be a big hero.

Cluedrew
2017-11-19, 01:57 PM
Why, instead, does working together to balance a party seem like such a foreign concept to most gamers?Because it is the game designers job to create a good game, not the people who are playing it. Not that there isn't responsibility to make a good game there, but players+ should never have to make up for the mistakes of the game designer. Not that it isn't worth it on occasion, but still that takes time, energy and skill that not everyone has to dedicate to the game, but it is hardly the ideal.

PhoenixPhyre
2017-11-19, 02:42 PM
Because it is the game designers job to create a good game, not the people who are playing it. Not that there isn't responsibility to make a good game there, but players+ should never have to make up for the mistakes of the game designer. Not that it isn't worth it on occasion, but still that takes time, energy and skill that not everyone has to dedicate to the game, but it is hardly the ideal.

And because design choices (intentional or not) by the designers can make it much harder (or easier) to attain the desired balance point. Designers do the rough balance, parties do the fine balance (or throw it out if they wish). The players can override the developers--the reverse is not true.

This means that the developers bear a responsibility to make a choice and work toward that. Imbalance is an acceptable choice, but it should be the result of explicit choices (Ars Magica), not poor design (3.5e D&D).

Morty
2017-11-19, 02:45 PM
This thread seems to rest on completely unfounded assumptions and sweeping statements. Can you point to a non-D&D game where balance works the way you think it should? Or one where it doesn't?

RazorChain
2017-11-19, 02:49 PM
I'll admit that I wasn't even alive during this golden age of gaming where everyone knew the game was out of balance and worked together through it, dammit, but I've seen enough stories like it to know that it's probably a myth, just like every nostalgic golden age where these problems everyone complains about didn't exist.
As to why this is a problem...well, there are a few issues. First, every player is going to want to make their character as powerful as they can. Sometimes it's out of a desire to be the best and the coolest, but it can equally well be out of a desire not to make things harder for everyone else for something ephemeral like "balance". (Imagine someone pulling this (https://youtu.be/yyN7rPbHybk?t=9m19s) in your campaign.) Heck, it might just be ignorance. "What're you talking about? Your fighter hits the bad guys a lot, I'm sure that's as important as my spells." Second, even if they see the issue and want to fix it, it might not be clear how to build/play your characters so they neither overshadow nor are overshadowed by other characters. It's not an easy question! On a third and related note: If professional game designers have trouble balancing encounters, what the flying frell makes you think every Average Joe Gamer is going to be able to handle it? "They know their characters better than anyone?" Technically true, but I don't think their backstories or personalities will affect game balance much, so that just leaves mechanics, and the designers know those better than anyone. Because...you know...they designed them. And because it's their job to understand them, whereas Joe's job is to understand municipal water supplies or whatever.


There was no golden age of gaming or old school is better, you are true it's just nostalgia. Game balance has always been an issue and mostly D&D gets called out as a culprit because it's most popular. The problem today compared them good old days is optimization. Optimization?!?! WTF you may ask? Yes now we have the entire gaming collective sharing their finding via the internet and dumb as brick Johnny doesn't have to use a single braincell to make that gamebreaking character, he just looks for the most OP build online and for DM's it's hard to counter as it just gets built up level by level.

In point buy the GM has much more control to veto things and often he'll say what is allowed and what not.

Another solution is for people who are unhappy about the balance to fix it themselves or just get their thumb out of their butt and play other systems which are better balanced.

I'm on the opinion that most system can be played or broken and game designers have a hard time balancing the game after the fact. It's not like a computer game where you roll out a patch. The brainpower of the collective is going to find and poke holes at the design. So in the game balance is about agreement among gentlemen and women in the gaming group. I have the ability to make OP characters in many of the systems I play but I don't because it would make the game less fun for everyone.

Jay R
2017-11-19, 03:24 PM
You're making grand, sweeping, all-inclusive claims that are really only a description of a small part of the gaming landscape. For instance:


oD&D and 1e were balanced stochastically across players, not at the character level.

You got your character stats by rolling dice with a bell curve. Eventually, you'd get a character with above average stats -- because all your previous characters died.

Lots of people say this, but it wasn't my experience. Of eleven original D&D characters I've run, only two ever died. Most DMs weren't as anti-social as Gygax.

And those two both died because I did something stupid with them, not because of their stats. They didn't have lower statst than my other characters. Even in games with high mortality rates, it's simply not true that characters with lower stats died more quickly. Not in any game I ever saw or witnessed.

The stats had far less importance in original D&D. I never thought a character was stronger, or less strong, than another because of stats. But Todd's character's were more effective than Richards, which were about the same as mine, which were more effective than Arthur's, which were more effective than Pat's, which were more effective than Eric's. Because how cleverly you played had a much greater impact than the stats did.

Your discussions of 1e, 2e, and 3e are similarly stereotyped, and don't describe the games as I played them or witnessed them.


4e actually made it so you were a legitimate badass at level 1, and you were quite likely to survive, which is exactly what everybody wanted.

I never wanted that. It's not a game until you can lose it. Once again, you are taking a single approach and claiming it covers all of gaming.

Vitruviansquid
2017-11-19, 03:35 PM
Mostly true. Personally, I'm more about making things as fun as possible, being as true to the concept as possible, etc. But, when that is a conflict of interest, that's what the GM (or other players in a GM-less game?) is for.

The position of GM is already not terribly fun for many people due to it having inbuilt conflict of interest in their eyes.



Surely you're not trying to contend that humanity is populated by such dullards as could somehow be in that situation, be unhappy, and know that there is a problem, but not be able to comprehend that massive imbalance was the issue? Particularly that a whole group of such would not constitute a significant statistical anomaly?

Comprehending that balance is an issue is far easier than fixing that balance issue.



Sure. But that's not the point. My carefully crafted character, who recovers mana fast enough to cast 20d6 lightning at will may not be suitable for play in the same party as a character whose big shtick is casting 5d6 lightning twice in a row, or the alpha strike character who goes first and deals 10d6 damage once.

I hate to use the word, but is that the issue? That people feel - and are being encouraged to feel - entitled to play any character that they can create, regardless of the impact on the group? That their entitlement is more important than group dynamics, than fun?

This implies that people feel like you should be able to randomly pick any crappy options for your character and still have it be as powerful as someone purposefully picking good options. In my experience, that is not really the case. In my experience, it's more like people want to be allowed to powergame without being held back by the possibility of breaking the game if they do it too well. There is a difference between trying very hard at something and succeeding only because you tried hard versus holding yourself back and succeeding at something easy.

Talakeal
2017-11-19, 03:49 PM
This implies that people feel like you should be able to randomly pick any crappy options for your character and still have it be as powerful as someone purposefully picking good options. In my experience, that is not really the case. In my experience, it's more like people want to be allowed to powergame without being held back by the possibility of breaking the game if they do it too well. There is a difference between trying very hard at something and succeeding only because you tried hard versus holding yourself back and succeeding at something easy.

Very much this.

I enjoy optimizing my character, but I like to be able to do so without completely breaking the game and ruining it for everyone and pushing against un-written DM imposed limits feels like a frustrating game of battle-ship while pushing against my own self imposed limits is like sitting in a cup-cake factory and trying to stick to my diet.


Personally, I'm happy that Spider-Man and Quasar and Hulk and Tom Jones and Angel and Thor all have very different power levels, but are all playable in Marvel superheroes. The System allows and enables you to play whatever character you want, but leaves considerations of balance to the group. Where it belongs, IMO.

Why do modern players, like yourself, seem to feel that most of those superheroes are invalid concepts, because balance should have been handled at the system level?

I am not overly familiar with this system but am curious how character creation actually worked.

Did the game have any system of "ranking" character power?

Was it point buy or just make what you want and see what the DM will allow?

Did the DM set power floors and ceilings?

Was everyone expected to use up all the "character points" allotted to them?

Was there any sort of benefit to playing a low powered character like narrative control or rerolls or something?

Darth Ultron
2017-11-19, 04:07 PM
Please explain to me how a situation where everyone meaningfully contributes to an encounter as opposed to half the party sitting on their hands and doing nothing is supposed to be a bad thing.


It is not good or bad...it is just different. And that is the whole point. The idea that everyone must make a meaningful contribution to every single encounter is the modern idea.

OS game, each player and each character get a chance to do something thoroughout the whole adventure..but yes, sometimes they just sit and wait..and sometimes others sit and wait...and everyone is fine with that.

The Modern game is just endless watching and nitpicking for as soon as a single player is even slightly lessened for even a moment....the game has a balance problem.



Bolded for emphasis. Where did this come from? Please explain to me how reducing player character agency improves their roleplaying. Unless you are operating on some weird mutation of stormwind fallacy, where PCs who are doing something during an encounter aren't roleplaying, while those who do nothing are roleplaying.

Game balance is a mechanical, roll playing thing...not a role playing thing. If a player is obsessed with the numbers and roll playing, then they are not role playing.


Asserting that modern gaming discourages roleplaying (despite the newest edition of D&D being the one where the designers made sure players had to pick more of their personality/background than an alignment, and despite older editions expecting your characters to die before they could be developed, and the fact that your assertions fail to hold up in any situation I've been able to test them in) is a common trope in the Halcyon Days of Roleplaying Before All These Dang Vidya Games stories I hear.

Modern gaming puts the overwhelming emphasis on mechanics as a way to balance the game, as, of course, they can be measured and compared. You can easily say that the game is balanced, when all characters have the same +10 or equivalent. To the Modern Game, Role Playing is just fluff to be done outside of combat or other mechanical roll playing.



I became a "submissive" player who let others move to the front and do everything because my character was incapable.

Well, note this is not being submissive. This is you not having the proper amount of Game Mastery to make the type of character you wanted to play in the game. In your example here, it would seem you wanted to have a pure roll playing combat character, but you simply did not make one to play.



So...if I understand this, the in-charge DM designs adventures and lets players create solutions, while the in-control DM designs challenges with solutions and lets the players find them. And then there are the on-the-fly adventures ("Quick DM"), which are another beast entirely.
This is all very interesting, but what the HFIL does it have to do with anything?


Because the In Charge type game is wildly unbalanced. The balance of this game is random, and depends 100% on the players. So if a player has enough role play mastery, imagination, rules mastery, setting mastery and real life knowledge....and they are aggressive and assertive enough to ask the DM to make such things and add them to the game just for their character....and all the other players do this as well....then the game will be balanced. If not...no balance.


Interesting. I mean, one does hope that the players show interest in and pick up some of the elements in the sandbox, and that they become part of the story that they want to tell. But, when the first level characters decide that they want to do something about the Dragon Lords of Athas, that's usually a long-term goal that they build towards, not something they act on right away. The "you must be this tall to ride" sign generally means "oh, not yet" rather than, "oops, I brought the wrong character".

This is just a Type of Long Game: The Slow build up to a massive, near open ended campaign arc. And the players can't really build a character for this, as no one knows what the future will hold as the arc is so open-ended.


Because it is the game designers job to create a good game, not the people who are playing it. Not that there isn't responsibility to make a good game there, but players+ should never have to make up for the mistakes of the game designer. Not that it isn't worth it on occasion, but still that takes time, energy and skill that not everyone has to dedicate to the game, but it is hardly the ideal.

I find this view odd. I hope I don't shatter any illusions by telling you that game designers are just employees of a company that make games just to be payed.

Even at the most basic: the Rule Writers have no control over the final product. They do their job, and write rules. And even if they make the most amazing perfect rules ever....they still have to go past a couple other people....people that can change, adjust or alter them. And even with the best case possible, like the prefect rules make it past all them people, you still have the Dreaded Editing. And if they need to cut 12 lines of text from page 33, they will, and there goes 2/3's of the perfect rule.

Knaight
2017-11-19, 04:27 PM
It is not good or bad...it is just different. And that is the whole point. The idea that everyone must make a meaningful contribution to every single encounter is the modern idea.

It's also far from ubiquitous among modern games - even in D&D, it tends to be more that everyone must make meaningful combat contributions, and that makes a lot of sense in a system where a quick fight with only a few belligerents can take an hour (which is still better than some systems). Other games outright encourage drastic party splitting, and if anything prevents making a meaningful contribution to an encounter it's being somewhere else entirely.

WarKitty
2017-11-19, 06:27 PM
Sad panda. As I love derailing asides, what concepts did people have that were completely incompatible with game balance?

I think the main problem there was that, for me, being able to pick and plan the best spell and control the battlefield and decide exactly how to manage things from afar, that's what makes the game fun. Their idea was "well, instead of doing control spells, just blast," which would have balanced things out but leaves me wondering why I even bothered to show up. On the other hand, I was playing with kick in the door, I don't want to worry about character options I just want to hit something, types. For them, trying to scale up so you have, say, maneuvers and this and that means you're doing homework and you show up to D&D to hit things, not to do homework.

It probably could have been balanced, but in retrospect that would have required a system mastery none of us had.

Psikerlord
2017-11-19, 06:58 PM
But, not all characters are equal. Sometimes, the problem wasn't balancing characters vs monsters, but characters vs each other. The most elegant solution I've encountered to this problem is having someone - the GM, another player, or the offending player themselves - point out that the character doesn't fit the group power level. And then have them bring a character more in line with the group.

None of this is new. All of this is stuff I've been using for more decades than I can remember.

So why isn't this the "state of the art", or at least the "state of the practice"? Why, instead, does working together to balance a party seem like such a foreign concept to most gamers? Why has the idea of "balance to the group" or "balance to the module" fallen out of favor with the RPG community?

I dont think it's fallen out of favour at all, not in my experience.

A rough intraparty balance is the only balance that matters in fact.

Party vs monsters "balance" can be fixed by the GM just adding more monsters/using harder monsters. What is critical however is a rough balance between PCs. If that gets out of whack (eg: a min maxer with an uber PC plus 3 normal PCs), the campaign will end early either because (1) the other players get jack of playing second fiddle all the time or (2) the GM accidentally TPKS the group trying the challenge the uber PC.

There are two main solutions if you party is out of whack. (1) The GM can sometimes fix the imbalance via magic item distribution, or some other custom aspect to the game (eg making custom feats). (2) The easiest way is for the uber PC player to simply agree to "tone down" their PC - or make a new PC - to meet the rough party balance required.

Cluedrew
2017-11-19, 07:15 PM
Can you point to a non-D&D game where balance works the way you think it should?Yes.

...

There is a slight awkward moment now while I explain it is a homebrew system my friend made and so I don't want to say too much about it. I will however say it is a Powered by the Apocalypse system.

GreatWyrmGold
2017-11-19, 08:32 PM
This implies that people feel like you should be able to randomly pick any crappy options for your character and still have it be as powerful as someone purposefully picking good options. In my experience, that is not really the case. In my experience, it's more like people want to be allowed to powergame without being held back by the possibility of breaking the game if they do it too well. There is a difference between trying very hard at something and succeeding only because you tried hard versus holding yourself back and succeeding at something easy.
There's also the other side of the coin--people wanting to be able to not powergame, to be able to pick choices which make sense thematically, without being completely useless. Things only get worse if there are entire thematic/demographic categories of characters who are worse, e.g. "You need magic to be good" or "Dwarves aren't viable".




It is not good or bad...it is just different. And that is the whole point. The idea that everyone must make a meaningful contribution to every single encounter is the modern idea.
OS game, each player and each character get a chance to do something thoroughout the whole adventure..but yes, sometimes they just sit and wait..and sometimes others sit and wait...and everyone is fine with that.
The Modern game is just endless watching and nitpicking for as soon as a single player is even slightly lessened for even a moment....the game has a balance problem.
As a modern gamer, I'm offended that you're generalizing everyone so extremely. If you actually believe that, I'd say screw you, but you'd probably just say something about me being a whiny bitch and dismiss any arguments I made on that basis. (Not that I feel I should have to, given that your "argument" just just a series of wild assertions about how valorously patient gamers were in the good ol' days and how whiny, impatient, and/or oversensitive kids these days are.)
If you don't actually believe that argument, but made it anyway, that's almost worse.


Game balance is a mechanical, roll playing thing...not a role playing thing. If a player is obsessed with the numbers and roll playing, then they are not role playing.
Stormwind Fallacy alert!
Roleplaying and rollplaying can intersect, but never in the sense that one precludes the other. You can do both! I'd explain more, but it should be frickin' obvious enough that I don't have to.


Modern gaming puts the overwhelming emphasis on mechanics as a way to balance the game, as, of course, they can be measured and compared. You can easily say that the game is balanced, when all characters have the same +10 or equivalent. To the Modern Game, Role Playing is just fluff to be done outside of combat or other mechanical roll playing.
Or--and here's a funny idea--maybe it's just that game designers only influence rollplay, and should make sure that works as well as possible! Maybe the gamers at home shouldn't be forced to balance the rollplaying enough that it doesn't impede the roleplaying!


Well, note this is not being submissive. This is you not having the proper amount of Game Mastery to make the type of character you wanted to play in the game. In your example here, it would seem you wanted to have a pure roll playing combat character, but you simply did not make one to play.
I could make a big stink about how you're misrepresenting the situation explained in sentences of that post you left out, and in a way which insults me (I did make a ****ing roleplaying character, that's half the ****ing problem, you ****ing *******!), but that's not important. What's important is that you made an argument, I made a ****erargument, and you made a counter-counterargument that completely demolishes your original argument.
That's a lot of profanity. You're really getting under my skin.


Because the In Charge type game is wildly unbalanced. The balance of this game is random, and depends 100% on the players.
Congratulations! On top of getting under my skin by asserting that because I observed that I was bad at combat, and then got bored with combat, I must only ****ing care about combat...your very next argument blunders into one of my least favorite Creationist fallacies. And as an ecology-and-evolution major, I have very strong feelings towards Creationist fallacies.
But let's back off. Which fallacy am I talking about? The "evolution is random" fallacy, of course! It's wrong because it's actually directed by natural selection, which (in short) drives the Brownian motion of random mutaton in various directions based on environmental conditions. What does this have to do with your argument? Well, the game balance isn't actually random! It's driven by player actions, which are (despite all appearances) not ****ing random! They are entirely dependent on what problems the players have to overcome and what tools they have to overcome them. And those are both under GM control.
A GM naturally controls the


So if a player has enough role play mastery, imagination, rules mastery, setting mastery and real life knowledge....and they are aggressive and assertive enough to ask the DM to make such things and add them to the game just for their character....and all the other players do this as well....then the game will be balanced. If not...no balance.
...
What?
What do you mean by balanced? How does all of this lead to balance? And what does any of this have to do with this:

Also true. But, when one player is doing everything, and another is doing nothing - the kind of stories one hears all the time - it's pretty obvious how things are unbalanced.
Because the situation you're describing as "balance" sounds exactly like one player doing everything while others do nothing.

I'm a real jerk, bringing up the original context of the argument like that.


This is just a Type of Long Game: The Slow build up to a massive, near open ended campaign arc. And the players can't really build a character for this, as no one knows what the future will hold as the arc is so open-ended.
I have built characters for campaigns like that. It's a matter of building characters which sound interesting, which seem like characters you'd like to play.


I find this view odd. I hope I don't shatter any illusions by telling you that game designers are just employees of a company that make games just to be payed.
Alright, let me explain capitalism to you.
The idea is that people who do good work get paid and outcompete people who do bad work. With me so far? Therefore, if a company wants to be as competitive as possible, they should make their products as good as possible (and sell them at good prices, but that's not important.) So, work with me--should the company be trying to make good games, or not?


Even at the most basic: the Rule Writers have no control over the final product. They do their job, and write rules. And even if they make the most amazing perfect rules ever....they still have to go past a couple other people....people that can change, adjust or alter them. And even with the best case possible, like the prefect rules make it past all them people, you still have the Dreaded Editing. And if they need to cut 12 lines of text from page 33, they will, and there goes 2/3's of the perfect rule.
You...you...
That is so stupid.
Yes, other people can ruin good work, but they usually don't. If editors take apart your work, completely change a rule you spent days on, there's always a reason for that. The fact that the editors are being paid to edit means they know how to edit, and what the point of editing is, and all of that. They're not going to ruin a "perfect" rule for no reason. However, they're perfectly willing to cut those lines of text from what the writer claims is a perfect rule if they're useless fluff or if they make the product worse.
Say, you wouldn't happen to be a writer of some kind, would you? Or do you just buy into the deification of the writer and the demonizing of anyone who forces them to change their Artistic Vision?


I'm getting way too involved in this. I'll get to other posts later.

RazorChain
2017-11-19, 10:40 PM
Sounds like your get what I'm talking about. And, is your contention that, because the game focus moved away from "fun" to "power", people lost the ability to call each other out for mismatched power levels?


I think that game designers should strive for balance, it's healthy for the game and the community unless a design principle dictates there should be a power disparity. But I'm old enough and experienced enough to understand with the amount of moving parts and subsystems in crunchy RPG's that this can be hard. You can always find a way to game the system. Therefore it's best if the gaming group reaches consensus what is unbalanced and what not.

The heart of the problem lies in that this is a game as I will adress below.







Comprehending that balance is an issue is far easier than fixing that balance issue.

No it isn't. The hard part is reaching an consensus on how to deal with balance issues as some people don't acknowledge there are issues or just don't want them fixed.



This implies that people feel like you should be able to randomly pick any crappy options for your character and still have it be as powerful as someone purposefully picking good options. In my experience, that is not really the case. In my experience, it's more like people want to be allowed to powergame without being held back by the possibility of breaking the game if they do it too well. There is a difference between trying very hard at something and succeeding only because you tried hard versus holding yourself back and succeeding at something easy.


Very much this.

I enjoy optimizing my character, but I like to be able to do so without completely breaking the game and ruining it for everyone and pushing against un-written DM imposed limits feels like a frustrating game of battle-ship while pushing against my own self imposed limits is like sitting in a cup-cake factory and trying to stick to my diet.



When I play games with my kids be it physical games or mental games I tend to hold myself in check as it gives me no joy in crushing them utterly. In that regard I show restraint to the benefit of us all and to enhance our fun. The same applies when we cooperate, if I solve every problem and just fix everything it diminishes their sense of accomplishment and they will learn less from the experience.

So if I Game Master for someone who tries to break the system to the detriment of the gaming group then I will use my system mastery to crush his character. Every complex system can break down and can be broken. This can be seen in computer games. I play a lot of RPG's and strategy games and often I'll find exploits or I can game the system to the detriment of my experience. Even when I crank up the difficulty to max and use exploits or powergame and the game is too easy it ceases to be fun.

For many people RPG's are a game...this has become blatantly obvious after started to I peruse rpg forums. These gamers tend to want to win, game the system and want to have the option open to lose the game. Balance becomes an issue when these gamers are competitive and try to break the game or push boundaries.

For other people RPG's are immersive experience in which the system is used to adjucate and interact with a fantasy world and characters. These Roleplayers may or may not be interested in system mastery and most often balance issue occurs when a power gamer takes a dump on their immersive fantasy by destroying the game balance with their creations. Inherent system balance often doesn't matter much to this group.


But in the end inherent system imbalances can be fixed and get fixed by a lot of gaming groups either by agreements not to abuse the rules or houseruling.

WarKitty
2017-11-20, 12:07 AM
Honestly I'm wondering if the complexity issue (which was part of the issue I had with my first group) is just a big problem no matter what.

I tend, personally, to play characters who have lots and lots of moving parts, lots of options, lots of ways of being prepared for freaking everything. The strategy game is the fun bit, and if I can't spend lots of time an effort picking the best option within given parameters, I'm going to be bored.

Other people want a very straightforward game. The character creation game is annoying and they just want to smash things with their axe without worrying about a lot of character options.

I'm not sure those work well together.

Nifft
2017-11-20, 12:36 AM
Oddly, I was too busy feeling drab in 4e to even notice whether or not my shade of grey was more powerful than my old colorful characters at 1st level. Yeah, if you didn't give 4e a chance, then 4e was not going to perform well.

More's the pity, since it had some excellent ideas.


IME, every 2e party was unbalanced, just a) the gulf wasn't as big as in 3e; b) it didn't matter as much even if it was. Yet, even so, we seemed to have had better tools to deal with imbalance ("dude, bring something else so the other players can play, too") than we do now. When, you know, it seems like those tools would really come in handy now. Did you play the same levels in 2e that you played in 3e?

I think my 1e experience didn't include ever reaching level 13, not even as a Thief.

One really interesting thing I noticed about 3.x was that people seemed able to blow past the previous campaign-ending "name levels" (since names were gone). The funky high-level imbalance stuff became more pronounced because the system held together longer, so we actually saw mid-to-high level play regularly.


You're making grand, sweeping, all-inclusive claims that are really only a description of a small part of the gaming landscape. Someone is making generalizations in a thread titled "What's happened to gaming"?

:thog: thog saw that coming


Lots of people say this, but it wasn't my experience. That's nice. It was the experience of lots of people. This is why lots of people say it.

There really wasn't a standard D&D experience until 3e, and I suspect that was mostly due to the Internet -- though the efforts of the M:tG generation to make RPGs with rules that could be followed (mostly) assuredly did help.


And those two both died because I did something stupid with them, not because of their stats. Yes, that's how lots of PCs died.

And that's why the stat imbalance caused by rolling didn't matter that much.

You got good stats? Great. You can keep them but only for a while. Then your PC will die, and you'll roll new stats.

You got bad stats? Sorry. You can live with them, it's only for a while. Then your PC will die, and you'll roll new stats.


The stats had far less importance in original D&D. I never thought a character was stronger, or less strong, than another because of stats. "Todd, you get 15% more XP than Jay gets, because you have better stats."


I never wanted that. It's not a game until you can lose it. Once again, you are taking a single approach and claiming it covers all of gaming. You're hallucinating words which I didn't type.

A 4e PC was a badass, and that did not prevent losing. Badasses can and do lose. They just kick a lot of ass on the way down.

Mutazoia
2017-11-20, 03:56 AM
1. This is a conflict of interests for the players. Players should not be made to balance themselves because their job is also to be as powerful as possible. Besides, most players want their own characters to be powerful.

IMHO, this is, at best "Power Gamer" thinking, or at worst, it's "Munchkin" philosophy. The "I'm not having a good time unless my character is the most powerful entity in existence, I don't care if I overshadow the rest of the characters" style that seems to be becoming more and more common. The whole idea of a group of players, is that they work as a group, not a bunch of individuals who just all happen to be doing the same things at the same time.


2. Most players and GMs are unable to achieve balance even if they honestly wanted to. Most people who don't post regularly on RPG forums (and most people who do) don't know well enough how the numbers interact in order to be any good at balancing the game.

Again.....

Posting on forums to find the most optimal build and be the most powerful "X" in the game, isn't the idea here. Or it might be in your games, but then you are not really role playing, you are just number crunching at best. (Or being a giant Mary Sue at worst.) Balance (in the OP's sense) doesn't mean every character is the best at everything, and always does max damage with every attack (which rarely misses, if ever). Balance (here) means each member of the party has a job to do, and does it. And ONLY that job (with maybe a slight overlap in case of emergencies).


3. It would be pretty gross to open a gamebook and see that Lightning Bolt does 1d6 damage or 2d6 damage or 3d6 damage depending on how powerful the GM and players feel wizards should be.

Again....

This isn't what the OP means...this isn't what any of this means....


I find this view odd. I hope I don't shatter any illusions by telling you that game designers are just employees of a company that make games just to be payed.

Even at the most basic: the Rule Writers have no control over the final product. They do their job, and write rules. And even if they make the most amazing perfect rules ever....they still have to go past a couple other people....people that can change, adjust or alter them. And even with the best case possible, like the prefect rules make it past all them people, you still have the Dreaded Editing. And if they need to cut 12 lines of text from page 33, they will, and there goes 2/3's of the perfect rule.

"No battle plan will ever survive contact with the enemy".

In this case it translates to "No rule system will ever survive contact with the players." You can design the perfect RPG, and your players will eventually find a way to break it.


That's nice. It was the experience of lots of people. This is why lots of people say it.

There really wasn't a standard D&D experience until 3e, and I suspect that was mostly due to the Internet -- though the efforts of the M:tG generation to make RPGs with rules that could be followed (mostly) assuredly did help.

There STILL isn't a "standard" D&D experience. Unless you play exclusively with clones of yourself...and that's just creepy.


Yes, that's how lots of PCs died.

And that's why the stat imbalance caused by rolling didn't matter that much.

You got good stats? Great. You can keep them but only for a while. Then your PC will die, and you'll roll new stats.

You got bad stats? Sorry. You can live with them, it's only for a while. Then your PC will die, and you'll roll new stats.

You seem to think 1e and 2e had characters dropping like flies. That's not even close to being true. Unless you just played with a douch-nozzle DM.


"Todd, you get 15% more XP than Jay gets, because you have better stats."

To be fair, this little bit came from a time when GP = XP. And even then, every player I ever played with ignored that bonus...too much book keeping.


A 4e PC was a badass, and that did not prevent losing. Badasses can and do lose. They just kick a lot of ass on the way down.

Every character, in every edition, got to kick a lot of ass on the way down....you didn't really hit the "save or die" options very often. Again...unless you had a douche-nozzle for a DM. And then you didn't play with Sir Douch-nozzle for very long.

Vitruviansquid
2017-11-20, 05:35 AM
I think that game designers should strive for balance, it's healthy for the game and the community unless a design principle dictates there should be a power disparity. But I'm old enough and experienced enough to understand with the amount of moving parts and subsystems in crunchy RPG's that this can be hard. You can always find a way to game the system. Therefore it's best if the gaming group reaches consensus what is unbalanced and what not.

The heart of the problem lies in that this is a game as I will adress below.







No it isn't. The hard part is reaching an consensus on how to deal with balance issues as some people don't acknowledge there are issues or just don't want them fixed.





When I play games with my kids be it physical games or mental games I tend to hold myself in check as it gives me no joy in crushing them utterly. In that regard I show restraint to the benefit of us all and to enhance our fun. The same applies when we cooperate, if I solve every problem and just fix everything it diminishes their sense of accomplishment and they will learn less from the experience.

So if I Game Master for someone who tries to break the system to the detriment of the gaming group then I will use my system mastery to crush his character. Every complex system can break down and can be broken. This can be seen in computer games. I play a lot of RPG's and strategy games and often I'll find exploits or I can game the system to the detriment of my experience. Even when I crank up the difficulty to max and use exploits or powergame and the game is too easy it ceases to be fun.

For many people RPG's are a game...this has become blatantly obvious after started to I peruse rpg forums. These gamers tend to want to win, game the system and want to have the option open to lose the game. Balance becomes an issue when these gamers are competitive and try to break the game or push boundaries.

For other people RPG's are immersive experience in which the system is used to adjucate and interact with a fantasy world and characters. These Roleplayers may or may not be interested in system mastery and most often balance issue occurs when a power gamer takes a dump on their immersive fantasy by destroying the game balance with their creations. Inherent system balance often doesn't matter much to this group.


But in the end inherent system imbalances can be fixed and get fixed by a lot of gaming groups either by agreements not to abuse the rules or houseruling.

I feel like Talakeal and I both specified we wanted to be able to go hard without breaking the system, to which you started moralizing at Talakeal and me as if we never specified this at all and just want to break the system and "dump on" other people's experience.


IMHO, this is, at best "Power Gamer" thinking, or at worst, it's "Munchkin" philosophy. The "I'm not having a good time unless my character is the most powerful entity in existence, I don't care if I overshadow the rest of the characters" style that seems to be becoming more and more common. The whole idea of a group of players, is that they work as a group, not a bunch of individuals who just all happen to be doing the same things at the same time.

Huh?

Where are you getting these assumptions from?

I want to play hard without worrying that the game will break if I play too hard, and all of a sudden you're putting the words, "I'm not having a good time unless my character is the most powerful entity in existence, I don't care if I overshadow the rest of the characters," into my mouth?

Maybe I need to explain what it means when I say:


want to be allowed to powergame without being held back by the possibility of breaking the game if they do it too well.

It's like Dark Souls.

When I play Dark Souls, my goal is to get all these bosses killed and get all these levels navigated. I use every trick in the book to get these things accomplished. That means powergaming, but Dark Souls isn't so poorly designed (as far as I know) that powergaming will totally trivialize the tasks of killing bosses and navigating levels, unlike D&D 3.5, which is actually that poorly designed. In Dark Souls, powergaming merely makes what is incredibly difficult into difficult. This powergaming is fun for me, but only because it there is resistance that necessitates it. If I could break into the game's code and set all the bosses to 1hp and make my character a deathless god, as you could kinda do in D&D 3.5, then the game has been broken and it wouldn't be at all fun for me because the resistance isn't there.

It is not so much about being powerful as surmounting difficult challenges.


Again.....

Posting on forums to find the most optimal build and be the most powerful "X" in the game, isn't the idea here. Or it might be in your games, but then you are not really role playing, you are just number crunching at best. (Or being a giant Mary Sue at worst.) Balance (in the OP's sense) doesn't mean every character is the best at everything, and always does max damage with every attack (which rarely misses, if ever). Balance (here) means each member of the party has a job to do, and does it. And ONLY that job (with maybe a slight overlap in case of emergencies).

It's really weird and offputting that you typed in "Again" like you are making multiple responses to multiple posts when you are only making one response to one post, but ok...

I don't know how you came up with this response to the point that most people are bad at balancing games. I don't know how you divined that Quertus means "balance" as the bolded part.

But the way I see balance is that every member of the party has different ways of doing some of the same jobs, but each way is equally effective while being noticeably different in feel and execution. This is on top of also having some jobs that only some party members can do. This is on top of everybody in the party feeling like they get to contribute in a given session. Most people can't balance in all these ways while preserving the diversity of options in a game.

Can you balance a game like D&D by giving every character their own jobs and then only letting them do those jobs? I guess. But man, who'd want to play that game?


Again....

This isn't what the OP means...this isn't what any of this means....


What can I say?

"Lol ok."

RazorChain
2017-11-20, 06:15 AM
I feel like Talakeal and I both specified we wanted to be able to go hard without breaking the system, to which you started moralizing at Talakeal and me as if we never specified this at all and just want to break the system and "dump on" other people's experience.


You can go as hard as you like but most systems have a breaking point but then again what constitutes as breaking the system?. If your group likes to optimize and the GM is up for it then you should just slip your inner optimizer free. At that point though the GM should be optimizing like hell and all the NPC's have realized this is a game. Then the logical conclusion is to focus fire on the PC's starting with the squishiest or the most dangerous and play the NPC's with a tactical precision and cohesion that belies their intelligence. What I am saying is that verisimilitude will probably be the first casualty in such a game.

The only Badwrongfun is to ruin the fun for others. At some point people realize that power play only leads to that either you totally pwn the game or it just escalates. When you show up with a BFG then the bad guys show up with a tank.

Vitruviansquid
2017-11-20, 07:03 AM
You can go as hard as you like but most systems have a breaking point but then again what constitutes as breaking the system?. If your group likes to optimize and the GM is up for it then you should just slip your inner optimizer free. At that point though the GM should be optimizing like hell and all the NPC's have realized this is a game. Then the logical conclusion is to focus fire on the PC's starting with the squishiest or the most dangerous and play the NPC's with a tactical precision and cohesion that belies their intelligence. What I am saying is that verisimilitude will probably be the first casualty in such a game.

The only Badwrongfun is to ruin the fun for others. At some point people realize that power play only leads to that either you totally pwn the game or it just escalates. When you show up with a BFG then the bad guys show up with a tank.

What constitutes breaking the system? I would say when your optimization undermines any of the core functions of the game.

So when your D&D 3.5 wizard can end encounters by himself? That's breaking the system, because a core function of the game is to have a party that works together to solve challenges.
So when your D&D 3.5 wizard can kill any BBEG from anywhere in the world at any time? That's breaking the system, because a core function of the game is to have an adventure leading to the BBEG.
So when your D&D 3.5 wizard can shatter the economic system described in the book? That's breaking the system, because a core function of the game is gathering treasure.

We can argue what counts as a core function of any game, so there is some subjectivity there. But I will say that games that are not D&D 3.5 don't break anywhere nearly as hard as D&D 3.5 when you power game.

I generally play 3 systems. I played D&D 4e, Savage Worlds, and now a homebrew system of my own making. But the system I've played most of is Savage Worlds.

In Savage Worlds, my players are always powergaming all the time, but one player thinks the best way to play is to have an extremely high Shooting skill because shots cannot be parried by an opponent's Fighting skill, and you don't need to defend yourself if you're behind taking shots. Another player thinks the best way to play is to have an extremely high Fighting skill because Fighting skill helps you parry as well as deal critical hits, so it's double-dipping offense and defense, twice as powerful as any other stat. I have another player who thinks of max Toughness is the best way to play because you can't get hurt without a roll against your toughness somewhere along the line in the setting. When I play, I am just about the only person in my group who doesn't dump Spirit, because I think a small investment in Spirit can pay off disproportionately in protecting you from taking wounds. Once in awhile, we find out that some powergaming scheme tends to be the strongest. Once in awhile, we find out that the powergaming scheme we thought was strongest only turned out to be strongest outside of a certain situation. Once in awhile, the dice are fickle and the powerful characters get blown away while characters who have been weak in the past thrive in a session. It is also the case that a relatively weak character can still contribute in the same party as a relatively strong character.

So yeah, it is possible to powergame without breaking the game down.

You also talk about players powergaming leading to the GM powergaming, and I have issues to address with that.

The GM does not have to powergame in response to players powergaming. Of course, if a GM wanted to really powergame, it's as easy as declaring that all players have aneurysms and die instantly and helplessly. Thus, the GM always lives with some conflict of interest that makes some people never want to play as the GM.

The GM can also do what you label powergaming, that is in my vocabulary to set up difficult challenges, in a way that does not break down verisimilitude. If your game demands that focus firing be a thing in a challenging encounter, then the GM might have to workaround it and say that the campaign will be focused around an intelligent and tactical enemy type - let's say all enemies the players will encounter in this campaign will be soldiers of an evil human empire.

If the GM set up more difficult challenges in response to players' powergaming, it does not escalate infinitely as you describe, outside of D&D 3.5. In Savage Worlds, I can add another goon to the next encounter if players steamroll through the previous encounter, and the difficulty of the game will raise by a fairly predictable amount. I might roughly do that until the party seems to have what I feel is a hard enough time. I do not need to pile on immunities, I do not need to give every monster flight, I do not need to make my monsters case save-or-die spells, it is an extremely simpler task to tune an encounter's difficulty without excluding my weaker player characters or breaking down verisimilitude in my experience with the games I have played than in D&D 3.5.

RazorChain
2017-11-20, 07:18 AM
What constitutes breaking the system? I would say when your optimization undermines any of the core functions of the game.

So when your D&D 3.5 wizard can end encounters by himself? That's breaking the system, because a core function of the game is to have a party that works together to solve challenges.
So when your D&D 3.5 wizard can kill any BBEG from anywhere in the world at any time? That's breaking the system, because a core function of the game is to have an adventure leading to the BBEG.
So when your D&D 3.5 wizard can shatter the economic system described in the book? That's breaking the system, because a core function of the game is gathering treasure.

We can argue what counts as a core function of any game, so there is some subjectivity there. But I will say that games that are not D&D 3.5 don't break anywhere nearly as hard as D&D 3.5 when you power game.

I generally play 3 systems. I played D&D 4e, Savage Worlds, and now a homebrew system of my own making. But the system I've played most of is Savage Worlds.

In Savage Worlds, my players are always powergaming all the time, but one player thinks the best way to play is to have an extremely high Shooting skill because shots cannot be parried by an opponent's Fighting skill, and you don't need to defend yourself if you're behind taking shots. Another player thinks the best way to play is to have an extremely high Fighting skill because Fighting skill helps you parry as well as deal critical hits, so it's double-dipping offense and defense, twice as powerful as any other stat. I have another player who thinks of max Toughness is the best way to play because you can't get hurt without a roll against your toughness somewhere along the line in the setting. When I play, I am just about the only person in my group who doesn't dump Spirit, because I think a small investment in Spirit can pay off disproportionately in protecting you from taking wounds. Once in awhile, we find out that some powergaming scheme tends to be the strongest. Once in awhile, we find out that the powergaming scheme we thought was strongest only turned out to be strongest outside of a certain situation. Once in awhile, the dice are fickle and the powerful characters get blown away while characters who have been weak in the past thrive in a session. It is also the case that a relatively weak character can still contribute in the same party as a relatively strong character.

So yeah, it is possible to powergame without breaking the game down.

You also talk about players powergaming leading to the GM powergaming, and I have issues to address with that.

The GM does not have to powergame in response to players powergaming. Of course, if a GM wanted to really powergame, it's as easy as declaring that all players have aneurysms and die instantly and helplessly. Thus, the GM always lives with some conflict of interest that makes some people never want to play as the GM.

The GM can also do what you label powergaming, that is in my vocabulary to set up difficult challenges, in a way that does not break down verisimilitude. If your game demands that focus firing be a thing in a challenging encounter, then the GM might have to workaround it and say that the campaign will be focused around an intelligent and tactical enemy type - let's say all enemies the players will encounter in this campaign will be soldiers of an evil human empire.

If the GM set up more difficult challenges in response to players' powergaming, it does not escalate infinitely as you describe, outside of D&D 3.5. In Savage Worlds, I can add another goon to the next encounter if players steamroll through the previous encounter, and the difficulty of the game will raise by a fairly predictable amount. I might roughly do that until the party seems to have what I feel is a hard enough time. I do not need to pile on immunities, I do not need to give every monster flight, I do not need to make my monsters case save-or-die spells, it is an extremely simpler task to tune an encounter's difficulty without excluding my weaker player characters or breaking down verisimilitude in my experience with the games I have played than in D&D 3.5.

And this describes the imbalance of D&D in a nutshell. Most systems don't break so hard when you optimize.

WarKitty
2017-11-20, 08:20 AM
If the GM set up more difficult challenges in response to players' powergaming, it does not escalate infinitely as you describe, outside of D&D 3.5. In Savage Worlds, I can add another goon to the next encounter if players steamroll through the previous encounter, and the difficulty of the game will raise by a fairly predictable amount. I might roughly do that until the party seems to have what I feel is a hard enough time. I do not need to pile on immunities, I do not need to give every monster flight, I do not need to make my monsters case save-or-die spells, it is an extremely simpler task to tune an encounter's difficulty without excluding my weaker player characters or breaking down verisimilitude in my experience with the games I have played than in D&D 3.5.

I think this is an underrated issue. As a DM I've been facing this. Many monsters? There's so many area of effect spells that can render all or at least most into a non-issue. Fewer monsters? There's ways to crank up save DC's so high that they're impossible, or to just simply not even bother with saves.

Darth Ultron
2017-11-20, 09:01 AM
As a modern gamer, I'm offended that you're generalizing everyone so extremely. If you actually believe that, I'd say screw you, but you'd probably just say something about me being a whiny bitch and dismiss any arguments I made on that basis. (Not that I feel I should have to, given that your "argument" just just a series of wild assertions about how valorously patient gamers were in the good ol' days and how whiny, impatient, and/or oversensitive kids these days are.)
If you don't actually believe that argument, but made it anyway, that's almost worse.

As I said right from the start: there is nothing wrong with being different.

My point is more like:
1.Game type One: Rides a bike down a flat, level road...no balance issues.
2.Game type Two: Rides a bike up high on a rope tied between two poles...has balance issues.

Now, note that Game Two is not wrong. And then comes the more tricky part:

To fix the balance issue of riding a bike on a rope, people are asking: what can I do, while on the bike on the rope, to get better balance, but they are only asking that question. I'm pointing out that, if you take the bike and get off the rope...and get on the road to will fix the balance problems. Again, not because it is ''right'', but because it will ''work''.



I could make a big stink about how you're misrepresenting the situation explained in sentences of that post you left out, and in a way which insults me (I did make a ****ing roleplaying character, that's half the ****ing problem, you ****ing *******!), but that's not important. What's important is that you made an argument, I made a ****erargument, and you made a counter-counterargument that completely demolishes your original argument.

Well, you did only mention combat roll playing in your example. You felt bad as your character could not do what you wanted them to do..in roll playing combat. You give no example of how you ''could not'' role player your character.



What?
What do you mean by balanced? How does all of this lead to balance? And what does any of this have to do with this:

Because the situation you're describing as "balance" sounds exactly like one player doing everything while others do nothing.

If you break it down by encounter: yes. For say Encounter Six, Players A and B will take the spotlight and do something; players C and D just wait. Then in Encounter Seven it is players A and C. Encounter Nine it is just player D. Encounter Ten is A, B, C, and D. And so on. But it is not every single player making a meaningful contribution to the game every single encounter. Over all, over the course of say 30 encounters everyone gets the same amount of game spotlight time, just often not all at the same time.

And yes, the above does not work if one character is a Demi-God and the other characters are just guys from a gym....but fixing that is what we are talking about.



You...you...
That is so stupid.
Yes, other people can ruin good work, but they usually don't. If editors take apart your work, completely change a rule you spent days on, there's always a reason for that. The fact that the editors are being paid to edit means they know how to edit, and what the point of editing is, and all of that. They're not going to ruin a "perfect" rule for no reason. However, they're perfectly willing to cut those lines of text from what the writer claims is a perfect rule if they're useless fluff or if they make the product worse.
Say, you wouldn't happen to be a writer of some kind, would you? Or do you just buy into the deification of the writer and the demonizing of anyone who forces them to change their Artistic Vision?


This is not the way it works. Frist off a lot of people that stuff has to ''go through''...well they kinda just do whatever they want. Some times it might be based on something they think or do not think.....but most of the time they change something just to change it. They want ''credit'' for doing something, at the very least.

Talyn
2017-11-20, 09:02 AM
The question is wrong.
The Hulk and Spider-Man and Dr. Strange and so on are all excellent characters in the context of Marvel's comics (and movies and whatnot). However, they would be terrible characters in, say, Earth Bet or the 40k universe. What works in one does not always work in another.
Similarly, what works for Marvel won't work for your tabletop RPG. Let's take the heroes from the first Avengers movie--Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye. Most of the players are annoyed that all the NPCs are giving the Captain extra respect just because of what he wrote in his backstory, Widow and Hawkeye are almost useless in most combat situations, Bruce loses control at the point where everyone else is having the most fun, Tony is distracted sketching up ideas for future suits, and Thor's just killing time until his power-up a few adventures down the road. What on Midgard possessed you to make you think that this would be a fun game to play?
It gets worse when you look at, say, the Justice League. They work as a team in all the same media as the Avengers, but the issues from their power disparity are even more obvious.


I think you harmed your argument there, mate, because Avengers is my go-to example of a great table-top dynamic where everyone has fun even though everyone isn't on the same power level.

Captain America's player is THE roleplayer, he's got the lengthy tragic backstory that ties into the DM's world. The other players aren't annoyed that he "gets extra respect from NPCs," they are excited to have a party face that will interact with the world and, at times, almost co-DM in providing backstory, context and motivation. He's the one who will have in-universe debates with the NPCs about whether they are doing the right thing, and is happy to play the righteous foil to a table full of snarky wiseasses. In combat, he's not a super-optimized heavy hitter, but he's a bard-type character who coordinates and boosts the other combat characters.

Iron Man, on the other hand, is the power-gamer who is in it to be super-cool. He's got feats and abilities from a dozen splat-books, and if he doesn't have the raw power of Thor or the Hulk, he's got versatility like you wouldn't believe. He's the Batman wizard who has prepared for just such an emergency, and is really excited to put his contingencies in play. When it's his turn to RP, he makes a point of how cool and rich and sarcastic he is, so the NPCs can be appropriately annoyed/impressed. The DM rewards him by making the big climactic fight smack dab in the middle of his home town, where all of his preparation can pay off.

The Hulk is the guy who, frankly, just plays the game because his friends do. He's probably Iron Man's buddy (or maybe his boyfriend/girlfriend) - he creates a backstory that gives him a reason to hang out with Iron Man when they aren't saving the worlds, has a few non-combat skills that let him support Iron Man's out-of-combat shenanigans, and lets his super-cool optimizer boyfriend make him an extremely powerful character that is (and this is important) REALLY EASY TO PLAY. When he Hulks out, he attacks the enemy Captain America tells him to attack, and then rolls the dice Iron Man tells him to roll. It's easy, it's fun to see everyone else at the table cheer when he gets some hella big numbers, he's just here for the pizza and beer and companionship, guys.

Hawkeye and Black Widow are the rogues. In a straight fight, they'd get slaughtered, but remember that there is a lot more to the movie/campaign than just combat. They are the ones who infiltrate enemy compounds, grab the intel, translate the foreign language, place the bugs, steal the artifact, whatever. From their player's perspective, they are the ones who "win" the campaign while the combat guys distract the evil hordes. They are having fun because, from their perspective, success around the table isn't rolling the highest damage numbers, or winning the evil minion body count competition, but instead it is interacting with the DM's world to solve the puzzle of "how do we accomplish our end goal."

Thor, on the other hand, IS in it to win the body-count competition. He's the char-op munchkin with a build from the forums who handed the DM his character sheet and said "you tell me my backstory, dude, I'm here to roll some effing dice and punch some tickets." So he just shows up, says he's an alien god, and everyone just rolls with it because hey, we're all here to have fun. Then, he gets a fun non-lethal punchup with the other players so that he can show off his build's chops (Captain America's player is bored with this, but he goes with it because it gets him back to his story), spars a little more seriously with the Hulk so that they can both roll some big numbers at each other, and then gets to shine in the fight against the enemy army at the big finale where he kills more minions than the rest of the group combined. He's having a blast swatting dozens of bad guys down every round while Cap and the Rogues do the "boring stuff" of actually resolving the campaign.

TL:DR version: the Avengers is actually a GREAT example of wildly different playstyles and power levels sitting around the same table and having a good time.

Morty
2017-11-20, 10:09 AM
Bearing in mind that I've still seen no proof that the situation OP talks about has occurred, there's a major flaw in arguments behind GMs adjusting things for players. Namely, GMs aren't omniscient. This shouldn't be a radical argument, but it is. Everyone GMs for the first time at some point; many GMs do it because no one else wanted to. The GM might not know the rules better than the players do, particularly in case of rules as byzantine as pre-5E D&D's have always been (it's not like 5E D&D is super-approachable, either). The GM also wants to tell a story, design some challenges and... here's another controversial statement... have some fun as well. Which is a bit hard if challenges and encounters they design aren't viable, because one or two of the party members can defeat them too easily.

This is mostly unrelated to the fact that, again, the supposed shift doesn't seem to have ever happened.

Knaight
2017-11-20, 11:56 AM
Bearing in mind that I've still seen no proof that the situation OP talks about has occurred, there's a major flaw in arguments behind GMs adjusting things for players. Namely, GMs aren't omniscient. This shouldn't be a radical argument, but it is. Everyone GMs for the first time at some point; many GMs do it because no one else wanted to. The GM might not know the rules better than the players do, particularly in case of rules as byzantine as pre-5E D&D's have always been (it's not like 5E D&D is super-approachable, either). The GM also wants to tell a story, design some challenges and... here's another controversial statement... have some fun as well. Which is a bit hard if challenges and encounters they design aren't viable, because one or two of the party members can defeat them too easily.
That 5e is being touted as a rules light system is a testament to just how ridiculously crunchy earlier D&D editions were.


Honestly I'm wondering if the complexity issue (which was part of the issue I had with my first group) is just a big problem no matter what.

I tend, personally, to play characters who have lots and lots of moving parts, lots of options, lots of ways of being prepared for freaking everything. The strategy game is the fun bit, and if I can't spend lots of time an effort picking the best option within given parameters, I'm going to be bored.

Other people want a very straightforward game. The character creation game is annoying and they just want to smash things with their axe without worrying about a lot of character options.

I'm not sure those work well together.
You're conflating two phenomena. The desired complexity of character creation and the desired complexity of play are two separate variables, and while there's likely some correlation between the two I'm not convinced that it's non-negative. Plenty of people heavily optimize during the character creation minigame to make one extremely effective tactic which they then use over and over, and lots of games which emphasize fast character creation also deliberately have a lot of options open to every character without having to buy in to them during character creation and advancement.

CharonsHelper
2017-11-20, 12:01 PM
That 5e is being touted as a rules light system is a testament to just how ridiculously crunchy earlier D&D editions were.


5e isn't light - but it's solidly mid-crunch, arguably slightly on the lite side of the spectrum, at least for low level games.

(Even 3e isn't nearly as crunchy as games like GURPS. Really - even 3e isn't THAT hard to jump into since it's an exception based system - though that's part of the reason for the balance issues mentioned in this thread. Because you can jump in without a full knowledge of the crunch.)

Knaight
2017-11-20, 12:16 PM
(Even 3e isn't nearly as crunchy as games like GURPS. Really - even 3e isn't THAT hard to jump into since it's an exception based system - though that's part of the reason for the balance issues mentioned in this thread. Because you can jump in without a full knowledge of the crunch.)
The crunch level of 3e is routinely underestimated because just about everyone is familiar with it; this is a good example of that phenomenon. It's an exception based system with a very large baseline stat block for every in game entity to make exceptions for, and that baseline is substantially crunchier than GURPS.

CharonsHelper
2017-11-20, 12:35 PM
The crunch level of 3e is routinely underestimated because just about everyone is familiar with it; this is a good example of that phenomenon. It's an exception based system with a very large baseline stat block for every in game entity to make exceptions for, and that baseline is substantially crunchier than GURPS.

I suppose in part it depends upon what you consider "crunch". For GURPS (admittedly - I've read but not played) it seems that you need to know the bulk of the rules before playing anything, while in 3e you can play with knowing a small % of the rules, gaining system mastery through play and mostly just in relation to your own class/abilities. (And - if like most games you stay in single digit levels - you never need to know many of the rules.)

Even if GURPS has somewhat less rules overall - it makes the barrier to play much higher. So - which is 'crunchier' depends upon your definition.

Morty
2017-11-20, 12:39 PM
That 5e is being touted as a rules light system is a testament to just how ridiculously crunchy earlier D&D editions were.

Certainly, but it still didn't feel right to lump it with the others.

Nifft
2017-11-20, 12:52 PM
Certainly, but it still didn't feel right to lump it with the others.

In my experience the older editions (especially oD&D) could be pretty light.

RazorChain
2017-11-20, 01:52 PM
I suppose in part it depends upon what you consider "crunch". For GURPS (admittedly - I've read but not played) it seems that you need to know the bulk of the rules before playing anything, while in 3e you can play with knowing a small % of the rules, gaining system mastery through play and mostly just in relation to your own class/abilities. (And - if like most games you stay in single digit levels - you never need to know many of the rules.)

Even if GURPS has somewhat less rules overall - it makes the barrier to play much higher. So - which is 'crunchier' depends upon your definition.


With Gurps nobody can just dig up an obscure feat or rules from a myriad of splatbooks, the GM will tell what books are in use so when playing fantasy a players that has used Gurps supers to make his character will be vetoed (unless playing high level D&Desque fantasy?maybe?). What Gurps has is a lots and lots of rules that cover everything and you'll never ever use unless you have a huge stick up your ass and love rules.

Do you really want to calculate how big a hole 3 people can dig in an hour? How far exactly you manage to hike with your hiking skill in 5 hours through difficult terrain? Your chances of catching malaria and how it affects you when traversing the jungle? What happens to your character when he gets booted out of an airlock with no spacesuit on? How far and how much damage your Strength 12 character does when throwing a 0.5lbs bottle? What is your velocity after falling 27 yards in 0.5G and how much damage you take when you impact on the ground?

Half the book in Gurps is filled with rules I'll never use.

Frozen_Feet
2017-11-20, 04:36 PM
@RazorChain: I totally ask and answer questions like that.

Joke being, I play LotFP and freeform, that is, game with light or no rules, and use real math and research for such. I don't consult rulebooks, I consult Wikipedia or my Scout's handbook, and a pocket calculator. :smalltongue:

---

Anyways... reading through this thread, some things seem worth of commenting.

First, the idea Quertus has displayed here and in other threads, that of using modules (etc.) as a balance benchmark, is in the right direction. The reason is simple: game system =/= a game. For an actual playable game, you need a scenario.

But therein lies the catch: D&D, and majority of other popular game systems are set so that the actual playgroup, usually the GM, is expected to build the scenarios. And it increasingly appears to me that a lot of people aren't aware of a really basic thing:

1) Scenario design is game design.

Corollary to 1): On the level of actual, tangible table play, scenario design often has much greater influence on game balance than the system

A lot of people have (correctly) observed 2): most people suck at game design. This is true of most hobby skills. But put together, 1) and 2) have a corollary that deserves more attention: even if a system is balanced in a vacuum, no guarantee exists that the balance will remain extant in any given scenario.

Classic examples of balance problems which are caused by shoddy scenario design: 15-minute work days, limited use abilities being just as good as unlimited use due to too few targets, limited use abilities being better than unlimited use because of too few targets and the limited use ability being much cheaper, some classes and class combinations rendered entirely unusable because of too many enemies with arbitrary immunities, etc.

People look at these and blame the system, not realizing that these are scenario dependent features and can occur in almost any system.

Related: some people have noted that 4e D&D was really well balanced on a system level. But they forget what the cost was.

No, it was not that the classes were samey. It was that the scenarios were samey. I've not played 4e, but those 4e modules I've seen & seen analyzed were strictly formula. Literally. The price of balance in 4e was making system math the gospel for GM scenario design. A great idea had they aimed for a computer game scenario design program, but a waste of human resources for tabletop roleplaying games. It's wrong paradigm for the medium.

Why? Because scenario design in tabletop games can be open ended The scenario doesn't have to be complete: bugs can be fixed, content added and solutions invented on the fly.

Scenario design in computer game is typically closed. Everything that's desired to be in the scenario has to be input before playing starts, or at very least algorithms put in place to fill in for imagination.

A living human can adjust on the spot in ways a computer can't. On the flipside, a computer is much better at crunching numbers, so trying to make a human into a computer these days is counter-productive. 4e was a step towards that direction - towards closed design and number crunching - and as a result didn't play into strengths of a human GM.

Now, older versions of D&D, and old wargames, were not exactly perfect in this regard either - but looking back, they had an excuse: computation wasn't as well developed in the 70s and 80s as now, and some unwieldy parts which would be better done by computers now were only possible for humans back then. Indeed, one of the reasons why computers are so good at those things now is because lonely nerds of old realized how cumbersome AD&D rules (etc.) were and spent a lot of effort to outsource the burden of the running the game on a machine.

So the question is: who is going to make the scenario at your table? The game system designers? The module designers? Or the unlucky sof you voted as a GM? Or you, the masochist who wants to be a GM?

Well, that person needs to read up on some game design, esp. scenario design, and start thinking about how to balance it for whatever subset of allowed characters. And as long as you're dealing with a fundamentally incomplete game, that is, a system without a scenario, then playing a blame-shifting game is waste of time. The buck stops on someone on your table. No way around kt.

Vitruviansquid
2017-11-20, 05:04 PM
Scenario design being game design doesn't stop the system from needing to be well-designed.

If I start to craft well-balanced scenarios for a game, and it turns out that everybody must fly or I must keep player characters who have been built to fly from flying, then the system has not allowed good scenario design.

If I start to craft well-balanced scenarios for a game, and it turns out none of them can look like the scenarios shown on the book's cover or the other in-game art or the types of stories the game purports to generate, then the system has not allowed good scenario design.

If the system assures me that something will be balanced, like with a level system or challenge rating system, and it turns out that these systems meant nothing, then the system has not allowed good scenario design.

Nifft
2017-11-20, 05:20 PM
Related: some people have noted that 4e D&D was really well balanced on a system level. But they forget what the cost was.

No, it was not that the classes were samey. It was that the scenarios were samey. I've not played 4e, but those 4e modules I've seen & seen analyzed were strictly formula. Literally. The price of balance in 4e was making system math the gospel for GM scenario design. A great idea had they aimed for a computer game scenario design program, but a waste of human resources for tabletop roleplaying games. It's wrong paradigm for the medium.

Why? Because scenario design in tabletop games can be open ended The scenario doesn't have to be complete: bugs can be fixed, content added and solutions invented on the fly.

Scenario design in computer game is typically closed. Everything that's desired to be in the scenario has to be input before playing starts, or at very least algorithms put in place to fill in for imagination.

A living human can adjust on the spot in ways a computer can't. On the flipside, a computer is much better at crunching numbers, so trying to make a human into a computer these days is counter-productive. 4e was a step towards that direction - towards closed design and number crunching - and as a result didn't play into strengths of a human GM.

Now, older versions of D&D, and old wargames, were not exactly perfect in this regard either - but looking back, they had an excuse: computation wasn't as well developed in the 70s and 80s as now, and some unwieldy parts which would be better done by computers now were only possible for humans back then. Indeed, one of the reasons why computers are so good at those things now is because lonely nerds of old realized how cumbersome AD&D rules (etc.) were and spent a lot of effort to outsource the burden of the running the game on a machine.


4e was not like that at all.

It's not my favorite game, and I'm not interested in running it going forward, but I did run it for ~2 years and it was absolutely brilliant for human DMs, especially coming off of high-level 3.5e.

Machines do things like track %damage to your weapon every time you swing a sword (IIRC Diabolo 2 did that), or a machine can roll on a location-specific armor chart for every attack, or use complex formulae to apply critical hit results. 4e did none of that. 4e was a human-centric game, which allowed a player or DM to pre-calculate as much as possible for speedy combat at the table, and gave DMs the freedom to innovate with confidence because encounters could be planned with predictable results.

As a tactical skirmish combat game, D&D 4e was more interesting and enabled the fairest DM creativity that's ever been seen in D&D.

You know who benefits from ballpark estimates & back-of-the-envelope calculations? Human DMs. Machines don't need estimations, they can just plug in numbers and get exact results. Humans need estimates. 4e gave humans the tools to choose a baseline, and innovate off of that. It gave DMs a firm place to stand.


As a 4e DM, I could tweak monsters in unique ways and have a reasonable expectation that I wasn't screwing over the PCs. Can 3e do that? Hell no.

Moreover, small per-monster abilities -- like the Kobold's Shifty ability vs. the Goblin's miss-triggered movement ability -- made even simple monsters feel distinct from each other.

3e Kobolds felt exactly like 3e Goblins unless the DM put in effort to make them distinct. 4e did not have that problem.

Same-feel encounters was not a 4e problem. It was a 3e problem, though.


4e was an excellent tactical skirmish game. (D&D is a lot more than tactical skirmishes, of course...)

4e had plenty of problems, and as mentioned I'm not interested in running it as-is, but your guess about why is absolutely wrong.

The reason that I care about this topic is that 4e got some things right, and I'd like to keep the good parts of 4e, while learning from the edition's various mistakes.

Encounter design was one of the good things about 4e, and one of the things that I wish 5e did better... not to mention every other game out there. Encounter design isn't easy, especially not with wacky systems like Exalted or Mage.


Just my 2cp.

Tinkerer
2017-11-20, 05:22 PM
If I start to craft well-balanced scenarios for a game, and it turns out that everybody must fly or I must keep player characters who have been built to fly from flying, then the system has not allowed good scenario design.

If I start to craft well-balanced scenarios for a game, and it turns out none of them can look like the scenarios shown on the book's cover or the other in-game art or the types of stories the game purports to generate, then the system has not allowed good scenario design.

If the system assures me that something will be balanced, like with a level system or challenge rating system, and it turns out that these systems meant nothing, then the system has not allowed good scenario design.

I would strongly disagree with your first example but strongly agree with the second and fall somewhere in the middle on your third.

In the first example it truly seems as though the fault lies in the scenario designer rather than the system. I would be hard pressed to name a system which doesn't fall into the "PCs may or may not be able to fly" zone. In short the fact that they are having a problem with it means that they didn't design a well-balanced scenario. Perhaps I am misunderstanding you?

In the second example that is indeed a fundamental fluff/crunch disconnect which has plagued a great many games since the start of this hobby.

For the third it really depends on the promises that the system makes. I can name several systems which have level mechanics implemented but have also flat out said that the systems are there for character growth purposes NOT balancing purposes. In which case I tend to cut them a bit more slack since at least they are warning you.

icefractal
2017-11-20, 05:52 PM
Agreed on balance being scenario dependent, and even more so campaign-style dependent.

Consider, for example, an Ubercharger and a Batman Wizard. Which one is more of a balance problem?

For me it's the former, although I'm sure many people would disagree. That's because my GMing style for 3.5/PF is fairly sandbox/improved. So:
* Some spell let the party short-cut a bunch of obstacles? No big deal, we'll take a snack break and I'll figure out what happens as a result.
* I can't use any monster stats from the book because they all die instantly? BIG problem - no way am I going to custom-build every possible encounter.

But for someone who already does hand-craft every encounter, it's the reverse. Undercharging is a lot easier to plan around than utility spells.

Arbane
2017-11-20, 06:04 PM
IMHO, this is, at best "Power Gamer" thinking, or at worst, it's "Munchkin" philosophy. The "I'm not having a good time unless my character is the most powerful entity in existence, I don't care if I overshadow the rest of the characters" style that seems to be becoming more and more common. The whole idea of a group of players, is that they work as a group, not a bunch of individuals who just all happen to be doing the same things at the same time.

It's kind of impressive the way you jump from "I'd like to be able to do something useful in most circumstances" to "I AM THE SUPREME GOD-KING OF THE OVERCOSMOS".

For player-characters in combat-intensive games, powergaming IS roleplaying. Most combatants DON'T WANT TO DIE, and will do what they can to minimize that possibility.


Balance (here) means each member of the party has a job to do, and does it. And ONLY that job (with maybe a slight overlap in case of emergencies).

And this is where D&D balance fails: The Fighter's job is to hit and get hit, the wizard's job is to DO EVERYTHING.




Every character, in every edition, got to kick a lot of ass on the way down....you didn't really hit the "save or die" options very often. Again...unless you had a douche-nozzle for a DM. And then you didn't play with Sir Douch-nozzle for very long.

I'd like to bring back my first 3rd ed Fighter so you could tell him that to his face, but you can't use Raise Dead on someone who died to a Death spell. :smallmad:

And you are very wrong. The whole point of first level O/AD&D is for the players to do whatever they can to AVOID using the actual rules in the book, because if they do interact with the rules, their characters have significant chance of being killed. So players come up with Rube Goldberg plans involving flaming oil, ten-foot-poles, and expendable NPCs in hopes of getting the DM to throw up their hands and say "FINE! All the giant rats are dead."

Cosi
2017-11-20, 06:11 PM
But for someone who already does hand-craft every encounter, it's the reverse. Undercharging is a lot easier to plan around than utility spells.

I agree with the rest of the post, but I disagree with this. It's actually very easy to get Wizards to engage in fights. All you need to do to get a Wizard with teleport to fight some enemy is to give her an affirmative reason to do that, rather than assuming "it's in the way" will suffice. You still have to actively plan around the Ubercharger, which is non-trivial.


For player-characters in combat-intensive games, powergaming IS roleplaying. Most combatants DON'T WANT TO DIE, and will do what they can to minimize that possibility.

Powergaming (within your concept) is roleplaying. Period. Your character has goals. If they have more and more useful abilities, they will be better able to achieve those goals. The notion that powergaming is incompatible with roleplaying isn't just wrong, its backwards.

Vitruviansquid
2017-11-20, 06:13 PM
In the first example it truly seems as though the fault lies in the scenario designer rather than the system. I would be hard pressed to name a system which doesn't fall into the "PCs may or may not be able to fly" zone. In short the fact that they are having a problem with it means that they didn't design a well-balanced scenario. Perhaps I am misunderstanding you?

Well let's say you have a game where characters of a single class can get to fly.

Let's say based on the way the game was written, there were no rules to prevent the flier from staying out of reach and casting spells or shooting missiles at everything below until they were dead.

Now let's say the options for an earthbound character to reach a flier was severely limited in this system. Most characters do not have a ranged attack, or ranged attacks were prohibitively difficult to use for characters not specialized in it, and even if a character was specialized in it, it wasn't as effective against the flier as the flier's stuff would be against that specialist character.

So now despite a whole slew of other character options existing in the rulebook, I have this one schtick of flying that I must give to every character in order to make things interesting, or I must prevent my specialist character from having it, negating the entire reason for that character to exist. Neither of these results is preferable to the system just changing flight to be more limited.

Cosi
2017-11-20, 06:15 PM
So now despite a whole slew of other character options existing in the rulebook, I have this one schtick of flying that I must give to every character in order to make things interesting, or I must prevent my specialist character from having it, negating the entire reason for that character to exist. Neither of these results is preferable to the system just changing flight to be more limited.

Making flight more limited is equivalent to taking flight away from the specialist. "Flight, but gimped so you can't kite non-fliers" is a very obviously different ability from "flight". Now, it's possible that this difference is acceptable, but you shouldn't pretend it isn't there.

Max_Killjoy
2017-11-20, 06:25 PM
I think you harmed your argument there, mate, because Avengers is my go-to example of a great table-top dynamic where everyone has fun even though everyone isn't on the same power level.

Captain America's player is THE roleplayer, he's got the lengthy tragic backstory that ties into the DM's world. The other players aren't annoyed that he "gets extra respect from NPCs," they are excited to have a party face that will interact with the world and, at times, almost co-DM in providing backstory, context and motivation. He's the one who will have in-universe debates with the NPCs about whether they are doing the right thing, and is happy to play the righteous foil to a table full of snarky wiseasses. In combat, he's not a super-optimized heavy hitter, but he's a bard-type character who coordinates and boosts the other combat characters.

Iron Man, on the other hand, is the power-gamer who is in it to be super-cool. He's got feats and abilities from a dozen splat-books, and if he doesn't have the raw power of Thor or the Hulk, he's got versatility like you wouldn't believe. He's the Batman wizard who has prepared for just such an emergency, and is really excited to put his contingencies in play. When it's his turn to RP, he makes a point of how cool and rich and sarcastic he is, so the NPCs can be appropriately annoyed/impressed. The DM rewards him by making the big climactic fight smack dab in the middle of his home town, where all of his preparation can pay off.

The Hulk is the guy who, frankly, just plays the game because his friends do. He's probably Iron Man's buddy (or maybe his boyfriend/girlfriend) - he creates a backstory that gives him a reason to hang out with Iron Man when they aren't saving the worlds, has a few non-combat skills that let him support Iron Man's out-of-combat shenanigans, and lets his super-cool optimizer boyfriend make him an extremely powerful character that is (and this is important) REALLY EASY TO PLAY. When he Hulks out, he attacks the enemy Captain America tells him to attack, and then rolls the dice Iron Man tells him to roll. It's easy, it's fun to see everyone else at the table cheer when he gets some hella big numbers, he's just here for the pizza and beer and companionship, guys.

Hawkeye and Black Widow are the rogues. In a straight fight, they'd get slaughtered, but remember that there is a lot more to the movie/campaign than just combat. They are the ones who infiltrate enemy compounds, grab the intel, translate the foreign language, place the bugs, steal the artifact, whatever. From their player's perspective, they are the ones who "win" the campaign while the combat guys distract the evil hordes. They are having fun because, from their perspective, success around the table isn't rolling the highest damage numbers, or winning the evil minion body count competition, but instead it is interacting with the DM's world to solve the puzzle of "how do we accomplish our end goal."

Thor, on the other hand, IS in it to win the body-count competition. He's the char-op munchkin with a build from the forums who handed the DM his character sheet and said "you tell me my backstory, dude, I'm here to roll some effing dice and punch some tickets." So he just shows up, says he's an alien god, and everyone just rolls with it because hey, we're all here to have fun. Then, he gets a fun non-lethal punchup with the other players so that he can show off his build's chops (Captain America's player is bored with this, but he goes with it because it gets him back to his story), spars a little more seriously with the Hulk so that they can both roll some big numbers at each other, and then gets to shine in the fight against the enemy army at the big finale where he kills more minions than the rest of the group combined. He's having a blast swatting dozens of bad guys down every round while Cap and the Rogues do the "boring stuff" of actually resolving the campaign.

TL:DR version: the Avengers is actually a GREAT example of wildly different playstyles and power levels sitting around the same table and having a good time.

That's awesome when you can get it to work and play all those types off each other to make a great campaign.

In a way it reminds me of the core characters from the old Vampire campaign that ran over a decade.



The gunslinging bad*** who wanted to show off his shootin' and punchin' skills. (Brujah) Player liked being a bad***.
The neonate college boy with tons of charm and ambition, but in over his head. (Ventrue) Player liked social interaction and networking.
The coffee-shop owning outdoorsman, equal parts poet, warrior, and revolutionary. (Gangrel) Player liked scheming and changing the world.
The investigator with gobs of Auspex, Fortitude, Celerity, and Melee... police contacts, and no Fs to give about your silly politics. (Caitiff) Player liked solving mysteries and uncovering plots.


Each of them got what they wanted out of the game, and the GM didn't force a ton of the stuff that each player didn't care for onto that player. So the "investigator" didn't get a lot of interpersonal complications or angsty stuff piled on, frex -- but she was the one who rooted out Sabbat infiltrators, who uncovered strange plots, and that other vampires hid behind when a werewolf went on a rampage.

Frozen_Feet
2017-11-20, 06:26 PM
@Nifft: your 2cp are appreciated. As noted, I don't have direct experience with 4e. However, your opinion is pretty much unique among those I've seen of people who played 4e extensively. Maybe a problem with small sample size.

The crux of disagreement might be encapsulated by the words, "tactical skirmish". Yeah, 4e is good for those. But those are also a minority part of what I use RPGs for. What I've observed of 4e modules, they suffer from making their scenarios nothing but a string of those.

Of course, it may also be you didn't use such modules; official modules across editions have been fairly crappy. 3e's were even worse than 4e's.

---


Scenario design being game design doesn't stop the system from needing to be well-designed.

Well duh. Did you expect me to disagree? I'm not arguing against that. I'm saying that even if the system is fine, all bets are off for ultimate balance untill you have a scenario.


1) If I start to craft well-balanced scenarios for a game, and it turns out that everybody must fly or I must keep player characters who have been built to fly from flying, then the system has not allowed good scenario design.

2) If I start to craft well-balanced scenarios for a game, and it turns out none of them can look like the scenarios shown on the book's cover or the other in-game art or the types of stories the game purports to generate, then the system has not allowed good scenario design.

3) If the system assures me that something will be balanced, like with a level system or challenge rating system, and it turns out that these systems meant nothing, then the system has not allowed good scenario design.

It sounds like you're talking of D&D 3.x.

Out of these, only 3) is actually a real flaw with it. You are forgiven for thinking 1) and 2) are as well, because 3) directly causes the impression that they are.

If you actually utilize the basic rules of d20 D&D, and cherry-pick the option bloat exceptions, it's possible, even easy, to build balanced scenarios which resemble the inspiring fiction, or where some people can fly and some can't.

One reason why balanced games using the rules are so rare is because metagame stupidity habit of going hog-wild with the option bloat exceptions untill they drown the basic rules. I once put in effort to rewrite a big fraction of SRD options (feats etc.). In the process, I was surprised how extensive the rules for mundane, low-level play (among other things...) actually were. I'd forgotten those parts of the rules... and so have, from the looks of it, most others, as those basic rules get obviated by option bloat exceptions, the faster the more you allow them feature in a scenario. Hence, despite its age and popularity, I find D&D 3.x. to be criminally under-utilized in many respects.

Of course, I will never fix this, as I'm busy over-utilizing LotFP. :smalltongue:

Mutazoia
2017-11-20, 07:40 PM
It's kind of impressive the way you jump from "I'd like to be able to do something useful in most circumstances" to "I AM THE SUPREME GOD-KING OF THE OVERCOSMOS".

For player-characters in combat-intensive games, powergaming IS roleplaying. Most combatants DON'T WANT TO DIE, and will do what they can to minimize that possibility.

Not all that impressive, really. Stating something along the lines of "everybody wants to be the most powerful" kind of leads to that conclusion.




And this is where D&D balance fails: The Fighter's job is to hit and get hit, the wizard's job is to DO EVERYTHING.

No. It's not.

A Fighter has:

High end defense.
decent, consistent per round damage (physical)
No high burst damage.
low end, or no utility abilities.



A wizard has:

Low end defense (they're squishy)
low end consistent per round damage (physical)
High end burst damage (magic)
mid rage utility that eats up burst damage capacity (each utility spell replaces a damage spell)



A rogue has:

Mid to higher range defense (mostly dex) but not as good as the fighter.
mid range consistent per round damage (physical)
low end burst damage (edition dependent/sneak attack)
Midranged (but slightly niched) utility capabilities.



A Cleric has:

High end defense (on par with the fighter)
mid range consistent per round damage (physical) better than the rouge but worse than the fighter.
mid range burst damage (magical) such as flame strike.
High end utility capabilities, such as buffs and healing.



As you can see...a wizard is about the high end burst damage. He doesn't need to do everything....he actually gimps himself when he tries, as the more things he tries to do, the less spell slots he has to use for that high end damage. But once he shoots his wad, he's down to throwing darts. Or expending charges on a magic item that costs a fortune to recharge.

The Fighter is indeed there to hit things and get hit, his schtick is to hit things with his stick, and deal consistent damage per round, every round, and generally punish anybody who tries to gang rape the squishy wizard. He can't run out off attacks...as long as he's still standing, he's still dealing damage. Not as high as the wizard, but it's constant and consistent. Long after the wizard runs out of spells, he's can still swing a sword.

The Rogue is there for the traps and locks and stealth duties, as well as (edition dependent) setting up flanking boni for the other melee types.

The Cleric is there to do a little melee damage, but mostly to heal and buff, with the occasional flame strike.

Each class has their niche to fill, the wizard doesn't need to do it all. That is an attitude that came about in 3.X's horrible mechanical balance. But this thread (didn't start out to be at least) about mechanical balance as much as party balance.


I'd like to bring back my first 3rd ed Fighter so you could tell him that to his face, but you can't use Raise Dead on someone who died to a Death spell. :smallmad:

And you are very wrong. The whole point of first level O/AD&D is for the players to do whatever they can to AVOID using the actual rules in the book, because if they do interact with the rules, their characters have significant chance of being killed. So players come up with Rube Goldberg plans involving flaming oil, ten-foot-poles, and expendable NPCs in hopes of getting the DM to throw up their hands and say "FINE! All the giant rats are dead."

I would argue that OD&D rewarded players for gold acquired....GP= XP, so there was just as much incentive to find a way to avoid combat, as there was to engage in it. And the practice was well ingrained by AD&D and 2nd Ed (even though the GP=XP mechanic was dropped). Players actually had (wait for it) FUN getting clever and finding sneaky ways around encounters. It was 3.0 that gave rise to the "I must kill everything I see" mentality.

And if your Fighter died due to a Death Spell....you have a Douche Nozzle for a DM. For some, the "DM" stands less for "Dungeon Master" and more for "**** Munch".

Knaight
2017-11-20, 07:50 PM
A wizard has:

Low end defense (they're squishy)
low end consistent per round damage (physical)
High end burst damage (magic)
mid rage utility that eats up burst damage capacity (each utility spell replaces a damage spell)



This low end defense involves Stoneskin, Mistform, Mirror Image, and a dozen other spells vastly better than anything a Fighter brings to the table. D&D's balance is way out of whack.

Vitruviansquid
2017-11-20, 08:44 PM
Well duh. Did you expect me to disagree? I'm not arguing against that. I'm saying that even if the system is fine, all bets are off for ultimate balance untill you have a scenario.

I think at the point when you are blaming scenario design by the GM for the 15 minute work day, you are stretching this idea to the limit. I don't really want to play a system that breaks down when the PCs are not on a time limit all the time.




It sounds like you're talking of D&D 3.x.

Out of these, only 3) is actually a real flaw with it. You are forgiven for thinking 1) and 2) are as well, because 3) directly causes the impression that they are.

If you actually utilize the basic rules of d20 D&D, and cherry-pick the option bloat exceptions, it's possible, even easy, to build balanced scenarios which resemble the inspiring fiction, or where some people can fly and some can't.

One reason why balanced games using the rules are so rare is because metagame stupidity habit of going hog-wild with the option bloat exceptions untill they drown the basic rules. I once put in effort to rewrite a big fraction of SRD options (feats etc.). In the process, I was surprised how extensive the rules for mundane, low-level play (among other things...) actually were. I'd forgotten those parts of the rules... and so have, from the looks of it, most others, as those basic rules get obviated by option bloat exceptions, the faster the more you allow them feature in a scenario. Hence, despite its age and popularity, I find D&D 3.x. to be criminally under-utilized in many respects.

Of course, I will never fix this, as I'm busy over-utilizing LotFP. :smalltongue:

If I was talking about D&D 3.x, I would've specified D&D 3.x. Flight is in this case used as an example for any kind of overly powerful ability not accessible to all characters.

Talakeal
2017-11-20, 09:16 PM
But this thread (didn't start out to be at least) about mechanical balance as much as party balance.

Yeah, those are two massively different things, my impression of the situation was very different, I certainly though Quertus was talking about mechanical balance in the OP.

icefractal
2017-11-20, 09:42 PM
A wizard has:

Low end defense (they're squishy)
low end consistent per round damage (physical)
High end burst damage (magic)
mid rage utility that eats up burst damage capacity (each utility spell replaces a damage spell)

In what edition? 1e/2e, yes. 3e and later, no. 3e damage spells aren't good burst damage. Not only compared to other classes (Barbarian and Rogue, for instance), but compared to the increased HP of monsters. People didn't switch to non-damage spells for no reason, they switched because most damage spells are anemic against comparably powerful foes.

Now yes, with enough optimization you can be a Mailman and damage becomes king again, but at that level of CO they're not squishy any more either.

In 4e they're neither particularly squishy or particularly damage-oriented (no more than most other classes, anyway), and in 5e I haven't played one but they seem even less bursty than 3e.

Mutazoia
2017-11-21, 01:30 AM
This low end defense involves Stoneskin, Mistform, Mirror Image, and a dozen other spells vastly better than anything a Fighter brings to the table. D&D's balance is way out of whack.

Spells which take up spell slots, which could be used for offensive purposes. Whereas the Fighter get's a high end defense just by wearing armor.

Stoneskin spells were notoriously easy to bypass, just by flinging a handful of gravel at Mr. Wizard...even in 3.X it only prevents 10 points of damage per caster level (to a max of 150)...that can easily be burned through rather quickly if Mr. Wizard is mobbed by melee types.

Mirror Images pop out of existence after a successful hit..again a handful of gravel defeats the spell, as you don't actually have to do any damage.....

Mistform is nice...but then you don't get to attack either, so you are effectively out of the fight, the same as if you were K.O.'d....

But yes...3.X is pretty much the version where the new kids at the wheel decided to give massive buffs to wizards, while reducing their balancing nerfs, and then realized that the wizards were now OP, and instead of un-buffing the wizards, they buffed everything else to compensate. Which left the martial characters in the dust. But then there are dozens of threads on this forum alone that are devoted to how mechanically messed up 3.X is....


In what edition? 1e/2e, yes. 3e and later, no. 3e damage spells aren't good burst damage. Not only compared to other classes (Barbarian and Rogue, for instance), but compared to the increased HP of monsters. People didn't switch to non-damage spells for no reason, they switched because most damage spells are anemic against comparably powerful foes.

Now yes, with enough optimization you can be a Mailman and damage becomes king again, but at that level of CO they're not squishy any more either.

In 4e they're neither particularly squishy or particularly damage-oriented (no more than most other classes, anyway), and in 5e I haven't played one but they seem even less bursty than 3e.

See above.

Wizards are squishy for a number of reasons, including, but not limited to, their lower average HP, and lower average AC. Few wizards can survive getting surrounded by melee types for very long, which is why the Fighter needs to make sure that doesn't happen.

But they are still burst...they are unable (or shouldn't be able) to cast fireball every round for the length of an entire battle (unless said battle lasts one round). If the fight lasts long enough, or is on a scale much larger than a group skirmish, the wizards damage falls off rather quickly as he runs out of spells to cast. Especially if he has spent slots on spells that replicate abilities of other classes (I'm looking at you Batman Wizard).

So in small, short fights, a wizard will prevail....expand the scope and/or the time scale, and he loses out to the fighter in damage capability.

Now, once you get into the higher levels (that the game was never originally intended to reach), this model breaks down...but then the entire game tends to break down once you get too much past 10th level. Traditionally, even with 2e, Characters were meant to be retired around lvl 18. At that point, the were paragons of their class, with their own strongholds and lands and titles and such. TSR just kept tacking on more levels to sell more stuff (kinda what a company needs to do, yeah?) that really just kept getting further and further out of hand on a framework that wasn't meant to support power levels of that magnitude. 3.X just grandfathered that in, but with a framework that was even less able to withstand it than the old one was, and broke much sooner. Don't even get me started on 4e.

Frozen_Feet
2017-11-21, 02:10 AM
I think at the point when you are blaming scenario design by the GM for the 15 minute work day, you are stretching this idea to the limit. I don't really want to play a system that breaks down when the PCs are not on a time limit all the time.


The 15-minute workday can literally happen in real life when boundary conditions for it exist, namely, when a worker's output exceeds the amount of work to do and there's no penalty for resting when exhausted. Any idea of it being system specific is WRONG.

The corollary to that is that 15 minute workdays can be averted in any system by having the amount of work be more than can be achieved in 15 minutes and by penalizing wanton resting. A simple time limit is the lowest bar to pass, so if that's too much effort for scenario design, you're just being lazy.

Mutazoia
2017-11-21, 02:34 AM
The corollary to that is that 15 minute workdays can be averted in any system by having the amount of work be more than can be achieved in 15 minutes and by penalizing wanton resting. A simple time limit is the lowest bar to pass, so if that's too much effort for scenario design, you're just being lazy.

This use to be called the "Wandering Monster" table...

mephnick
2017-11-21, 03:33 AM
This use to be called the "Wandering Monster" table...

No way man. Wandering monsters are boring. These days every scene in the game must have some important narrative impact. Wandering Monsters are teh lame. :smallyuk:

With that in mind, why are we wasting time traveling? Just warp us to the next scene and get on with the story. :smallannoyed::smallannoyed:

How dare my DM let my character die in a random encounter. :smallmad::smallmad::smallmad: I quit. Only I should be allowed to decide when my character dies, which is never. :smallwink:

I DM'd a 12 hour session the other day that was entirely dialogue and I couldn't be prouder of my group :smalltongue::smallsmile::smalltongue::smallsmile:

I failed a save in the first round and had to sit and watch my friends play for 20 minutes. How can the DM ignore me for so long? Doesn't he realize I'm special? I'm ditching this killer DM. Don't @ me.

- Modern players

Mutazoia
2017-11-21, 04:15 AM
No way man. Wandering monsters are boring. These days every scene in the game must have some important narrative impact. Wandering Monsters are teh lame. :smallyuk:

To hell with that! Monsters should only show up when I'm fully rested and ready for them. None of this "two combat encounters in a row" or "Surprise round (that I'm not instigating)" crap!


With that in mind, why are we wasting time traveling? Just warp us to the next scene and get on with the story. :smallannoyed::smallannoyed:

Why can't the monsters (and treasure) just come to me?


How dare my DM let my character die in a random encounter. :smallmad::smallmad::smallmad: I quit. Only I should be allowed to decide when my character dies, which is never. :smallwink:

Wait...my character DIED?! From WOUNDS?! What the actual ****, man?! My character isn't supposed to break a sweat!


I DM'd a 12 hour session the other day that was entirely dialogue and I couldn't be prouder of my group :smalltongue::smallsmile::smalltongue::smallsmile:

What's with all this talking crap?! I'm not playing a role playing game to talk to people, I'm here to kill **** and steal it's treasure!


I failed a save in the first round and had to sit and watch my friends play for 20 minutes. How can the DM ignore me for so long? Doesn't he realize I'm special? I'm ditching this killer DM. Don't @ me.

My build is super optimized! I'm winning, right? I'm winning, 'cuz I'm using a build off of a forum that wins.....

Max_Killjoy
2017-11-21, 07:46 AM
Non Sequitur (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non_sequitur_(logic))

Strawman (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strawman)

Darth Ultron
2017-11-21, 08:28 AM
Scenario design being game design doesn't stop the system from needing to be well-designed.


It can help and greatly effect the game in such a positive way that the balance is near perfect.



And this is where D&D balance fails: The Fighter's job is to hit and get hit, the wizard's job is to DO EVERYTHING.


Other then the Big Problem here is the One Way people choose to play the game, this is a perfect spot to point out that the DM, but designing the game setting can handle this ''balance problem'' and make it not exist.

Milo v3
2017-11-21, 08:47 AM
*Reads the burning trash-heap of generalisation that is this thread*

Oh yeah... This is why I don't read gitp threads very often anymore.

Scripten
2017-11-21, 10:47 AM
With that in mind, why are we wasting time traveling? Just warp us to the next scene and get on with the story.

This is a fairly legitimate complaint. "White room" random combats out in the wilderness can be fun, but only if they are interesting. "Ten goblins attack you on a field! Roll initiative and hit them until they fall down!" is not very interesting.



I DM'd a 12 hour session the other day that was entirely dialogue and I couldn't be prouder of my group

If that's what the players want to do, why is it badwrongfun?



I failed a save in the first round and had to sit and watch my friends play for 20 minutes. How can the DM ignore me for so long? Doesn't he realize I'm special? I'm ditching this killer DM. Don't @ me.

Legitimate complaint. Why would you set aside hours every week to join in a social gaming environment when you can't play?

There's a current of elitism and gatekeeping running through this thread.

Vitruviansquid
2017-11-21, 01:44 PM
The 15-minute workday can literally happen in real life when boundary conditions for it exist, namely, when a worker's output exceeds the amount of work to do and there's no penalty for resting when exhausted. Any idea of it being system specific is WRONG.

The corollary to that is that 15 minute workdays can be averted in any system by having the amount of work be more than can be achieved in 15 minutes and by penalizing wanton resting. A simple time limit is the lowest bar to pass, so if that's too much effort for scenario design, you're just being lazy.

You're throwing out the word "lazy" as if it isn't a fine thing for a system to let GMs be lazy.

But GMing is a difficult and time consuming job at minimum, and anything a system can do to reduce that much time is good, in my book.

Mutazoia
2017-11-21, 07:37 PM
*Reads the burning trash-heap of generalisation that is this thread*

Oh yeah... This is why I don't read gitp threads very often anymore.

And nobody noticed that you were gone.

Cosi
2017-11-21, 07:43 PM
Legitimate complaint. Why would you set aside hours every week to join in a social gaming environment when you can't play?

This is super true. There's a limit to how long you can keep people involved in a game they are nominally playing when they can't take actions, and many RPGs don't pay nearly enough attention to it.

WarKitty
2017-11-21, 08:48 PM
You're throwing out the word "lazy" as if it isn't a fine thing for a system to let GMs be lazy.

But GMing is a difficult and time consuming job at minimum, and anything a system can do to reduce that much time is good, in my book.

I think this needs to be said more often. A lot of us who are adults, well, "game design" falls on the priority list behind things like "earning money" and "cooking food" and "getting skills to earn better money" and all those annoying things that adults have to do.

Milo v3
2017-11-22, 02:31 AM
And nobody noticed that you were gone.

Funnily enough, that's not actually true. Though I would find it amusing if Darth Ultron remembered me, in so many discussions he claimed my playstyle was ficticious and that I was lying to myself or that I was basically a slave to my players.

Frozen_Feet
2017-11-22, 03:48 AM
You're throwing out the word "lazy" as if it isn't a fine thing for a system to let GMs be lazy.

But GMing is a difficult and time consuming job at minimum, and anything a system can do to reduce that much time is good, in my book.
There is a difference between wanting the system to not requite a whole lot of effort from you, and wanting it to require practically no effort from you.

What is the thing you need to set a time limit for an adventure? Come up with one important event the players will miss if their characters go home after 15 minutes. It is that low a bar to pass.

If you're going to GM at all, you will have time to think of that for your scenario. Don't pretend otherwise. It is a trivial amount of work. If you need the systems designer to do it for you, then yes you're being god-damned lazy.

WarKitty
2017-11-22, 06:06 AM
What is the thing you need to set a time limit for an adventure? Come up with one important event the players will miss if their characters go home after 15 minutes. It is that low a bar to pass.

If you're going to GM at all, you will have time to think of that for your scenario. Don't pretend otherwise. It is a trivial amount of work. If you need the systems designer to do it for you, then yes you're being god-damned lazy.

Ok, now do that for every session of a multi-year campaign without it coming across like you're trying to use the same few tricks over and over and over again.

Not so easy.

Frozen_Feet
2017-11-22, 06:37 AM
Been there, done that, it is exactly as trivial as I make it to be, and it doesn't even matter if you're reusing the same tricks over and over, because many of the simplest tricks are generic enough to use over and over again.

For example, any senario with mobile antagonists: "you realize that if you stop now, the enemy's going to get away?"

Any mass battle: "you realize that if you stop now, the enemy's going to regroup, regain iniative and mount a counter-attack?"

Any exploration mission where the player characters are not the only ones who know of the goal: "You realize that the longer you drag your feet, the more likely it is your rivals will get there first?"

Any travel scenario with finite supplies: "you realize that if you drag your feet, you will not have enough supplies left for the return trip?"

No player I know of ever complained, because complaining of obvious common sense things as these are akin to complaining about the sun rising and setting in the game.

Cluedrew
2017-11-22, 08:15 AM
Though I would find it amusing if Darth Ultron remembered me, [...]Can't speak for Darth Ultron, but I just saw your name and the pink pillar jumps to mind immediately. More so than the swashbuckler kobold. Anyways I would agree this thread has problems, but I don't think making a blanket statement about there being problems is not going to help it. I mean this post might not help either, but I realized I'm not sure what the original topic was supposed to be, so rescuing it is a bit beyond me right now.

Milo v3
2017-11-22, 08:27 AM
Can't speak for Darth Ultron, but I just saw your name and the pink pillar jumps to mind immediately. More so than the swashbuckler kobold. Anyways I would agree this thread has problems, but I don't think making a blanket statement about there being problems is not going to help it. I mean this post might not help either, but I realized I'm not sure what the original topic was supposed to be, so rescuing it is a bit beyond me right now.

*Blink*
... Can't believe I forgot I could just go back to that avatar without the photobucket issue.

Now I have a (horribly drawn) avatar yet again. The photobucket thing was so annoying.

WarKitty
2017-11-22, 07:01 PM
Been there, done that, it is exactly as trivial as I make it to be, and it doesn't even matter if you're reusing the same tricks over and over, because many of the simplest tricks are generic enough to use over and over again.

For example, any senario with mobile antagonists: "you realize that if you stop now, the enemy's going to get away?"

Any mass battle: "you realize that if you stop now, the enemy's going to regroup, regain iniative and mount a counter-attack?"

Any exploration mission where the player characters are not the only ones who know of the goal: "You realize that the longer you drag your feet, the more likely it is your rivals will get there first?"

Any travel scenario with finite supplies: "you realize that if you drag your feet, you will not have enough supplies left for the return trip?"

No player I know of ever complained, because complaining of obvious common sense things as these are akin to complaining about the sun rising and setting in the game.

A lot of those have counters in higher-level play. Who cares about supplies when you can summon food? Who cares about people getting away when you have 20 means of instantaneous or near-instantaneous travel at your disposal?

1337 b4k4
2017-11-22, 10:32 PM
To answer one of the first questions posed (why are the simple solutions not common), it helps to reflect that almost every rule for a game is designed to solve an interpersonal problem. In a perfectly ideal world, we wouldn't need rules. People would get together, they would magically know what everyone wants to do, they would all be in perfect agreement and then they would make it happen. GMs would make perfectly fair rulings, and there would never be contention over whether or not a given attack hit, or whether or not a given success or failure occurred.

Of course we don't live in that world, so rules exist, and early on, the rules were around the basic mechanics of how to move, how to fight and how to explore, with minimal thought given to balancing either PC vs NPC or PC vs PC. As noted, it was assumed that the individual groups would figure that out, and doing so allowed the game to be a very open ended thing.

But not everyone was fortunate enough to play with all friends, who all agreed all the time. People ran into GMs that were abusive of their powers, ran into players that wouldn't self-balance against the party, and into players and gms alike who were still figuring this stuff out and making mistakes. Flexibility was great, but it hurt table to table portability. So we built more rules. But instead of rules about how to do things in the world, they were rules about how the world should be run. Classes were more locked down, as were skills. Enemies were ranked and scaled. Balance became important to allow people to follow a "by the numbers" approach either when they were new and lost, or as a way to keep difficult players and GMs in check.

3.x locked down the GMs, everything in the world had a system that justified its existence or it was against the rules. 4e completed the journey and locked down the players. No more could you have wildly disparate builds, every class and every feature was carefully constructed just so. And the end result was a very restrictive game. Don't get me wrong, 4e was an EXCELLENT tactical skirmish game. But it didn't have much flexibility to go outside of that, by which I mean if you cut combat completely out of an AD&D game, you'd be wasting about 1/3 your character sheet. Cut it from 4e and you're wasting 50%+. Good game, but balanced at the expense of flexibility. And to be fair balance is hard, just look at fighting video games. In an environment where every possible move and every possible action can be known, where it is impossible for players to do something outside the games assumptions, there are still tiers. Still characters that are better than all the others, even though balance is a holy grail for these sorts of games.

Which is a long and rambling way of saying the reason modern games don't rely on player and module level balance is because they have intentionally crafted rules to eliminate that as best as possible in order to improve consistency between tables.

As a side note, it's amazing to me how much damage D&D 3.x did to TTRPG discussions. Here we are 2 editions and almost 10 years later and the problems that version caused are still a big sore point. Imagine if in 2010 we were still discussing 2e's failings, and it was the assumed baseline when having a discussion about D&D.

Mechalich
2017-11-23, 01:04 AM
As a side note, it's amazing to me how much damage D&D 3.x did to TTRPG discussions. Here we are 2 editions and almost 10 years later and the problems that version caused are still a big sore point. Imagine if in 2010 we were still discussing 2e's failings, and it was the assumed baseline when having a discussion about D&D.

That's not damage inflicted by 3.X, that's damage resulting from the massive commercial failure of 4e combined with the downfall of White-Wolf and the minimal support and rollout of 5e. Taken together, the combination of 3.X games and Pathfinder games (with Pathfinder as basically just a specific 3.X variant with a lot of support) is still the big dog of tabletop. None of the other big names has managed to grow market share in any significant way, instead most have just declined themselves with a series of buyouts and re-orgs being the rule in the hobby. The few new arrivals of note, like FATE, tend to be systems of limited rules complexity products with comparatively reduced monetization capacity. There are countless other games out there, but most of them have minimal market exposure (and many are simply outgrowths of variant rules for earlier D&D editions anyway) so it's difficult to have a mass discussion.

D&D is also a natural place for system-principle discussions to gravitate towards because it is by far the largest system that is not directly tied to a setting. That makes it possible to at least theoretically discuss system balance issues using D&D examples in a way you simply can't do with games that combine system and setting like Exalted. Exalted absolutely has huge game balance issues (to the point that the initial 2e core basically degenerated into an unplayable mess once players acquired any system mastery whatsoever) but since they were intrinsically tied to the setting you couldn't make rules changes in a vacuum and any time you made a house rule it had a possibility of causing a cascade that tore creation apart, or if you ignored consequences severely damaged verisimilitude.

Frozen_Feet
2017-11-23, 02:29 AM
A lot of those have counters in higher-level play. Who cares about supplies when you can summon food? Who cares about people getting away when you have 20 means of instantaneous or near-instantaneous travel at your disposal?
And at high levels, those counters have counters. Also, did you see me write "food"? No, you did not. I said supplies. That term covers things well beyond the point where food ceases to matter.

Just to name one example, by the time you have Teleport, the opposition has potential access to Non-Detection, Obscure Object, etc. And you just gave them 8 hours head start to find and apply those spells. As well as to hire someone who can themselves cast Scry, Teleport etc. combination to find you and screw you over.

So blowing your resources on the first obstacle and going home after 15 minutes? To paraphrase Tony Stark, "not a great plan".

Now, there frequently are counter strategies to counters of counter strategies. But if your players are playing at that level, why are you even complaining of 15 minute work day? Your players are clearly spending way too much time to win at elf games interested and invested in your scenario. Just let them eat their god damn cake, they've earned it.

2D8HP
2017-11-26, 05:34 PM
Old-school D&D had a really elegant solution to this problem: it's the players' problem. They need to build a team that can do the recon, and accurately determine whether or not something is a valid challenge for them, or whether they should high-tail it out of there, and let sleeping dragons lie.....
FWLIW, in the old D&D games that I remember playing (IIRC), mostly "balance" was simply handled by most every PC being Fighters (usually humans, sometimes Dwarves rarely anything else), as other classes were perceived as weaker.

When one of us played a different class, either we had exceptional "stat" rolls, or we just liked the "fluff" or the challenge.
Also, "optimization" was a matter of what equipment you carried, "builds" were for Car Wars and Champions.


...So why isn't this the "state of the art", or at least the "state of the practice"? Why, instead, does working together to balance a party seem like such a foreign concept to most gamers? Why has the idea of "balance to the group" or "balance to the module" fallen out of favor with the RPG community?..
In my case, because doing what you suggest @Quertus sounds like even more work on my part to get to the point of the GM asking "What do you do?, and I respond, "I stab ' em in the eye!!!"

Really, I now find PC creation tedious, can I just play a pre-gen?

...

A Tabaxi Bladesinger?

What in the name of Crom's untrimmed toenails is that?

....

Fine. Hand me the dice.

Talakeal
2017-11-26, 06:02 PM
Would love for Quertus to enter back into te discussion, still curious at to wheer the OP meant mechanical balance or party balance and the details about character creation in Marvel superheroes.

JBPuffin
2017-11-27, 12:26 AM
This is pretty standard in a point buy game.

IMO the problem only really crops up in class based games (and really only becomes an issue in 3.X D&D) because "class" encapsulates not just character power but also game role, character concept, and mechanical play-style and the game likely doesn't have an option for most people to play the way they want to play at the power level that the game is designed for.

You can very easily have interparty unbalancing in point buy games - there are just as likely to be trap and high-op options in such games as in class-based ones, and they can be just as cleverly disguised (if not more so). It just becomes a feature-by-feature balancing issue rather than a class-by-class balancing issue, which is actually just a feature-by-feature model hidden by premise groupings. Look at peoples’ attempts to make various versions of Dungeons and Dragons point-buy affairs for some examples.

Talakeal
2017-11-27, 12:38 AM
You can very easily have interparty unbalancing in point buy games - there are just as likely to be trap and high-op options in such games as in class-based ones, and they can be just as cleverly disguised (if not more so). It just becomes a feature-by-feature balancing issue rather than a class-by-class balancing issue, which is actually just a feature-by-feature model hidden by premise groupings. Look at peoples’ attempts to make various versions of Dungeons and Dragons point-buy affairs for some examples.

Of course it is, which is why I said that it is pretty standard to work together to make a balanced party when playing a point buy game.

The problem with class based games is that difficulty, character concept, party role (both in and out of combat), and play-style are all predetermined based on your choice of class, in a point buy game you are generally free to determine each of these thing independently of once another.

Mechalich
2017-11-27, 12:55 AM
Of course it is, which is why I said that it is pretty standard to work together to make a balanced party when playing a point buy game.

The problem with class based games is that difficulty, character concept, party role (both in and out of combat), and play-style are all predetermined based on your choice of class, in a point buy game you are generally free to determine each of these thing independently of once another.

I don't think choice informs the difference so much that the greater independence of traits in a point buy system makes it easier to adjust for specific problem traits by banning them outright - whether they are too powerful or too weak. For example, in any given superpower game there's bound to be a power write-up that is blatantly OP because someone just didn't quite get the implications or simply screwed up the math. GMs can simply house rule said power out of existence and now you just have one less power in the matrix for your game. In a class based system you can't do that, because once you start banning traits you're pulling pieces out of classes and the intended balance of the system starts to fall apart.

This why in D&D it is generally much easier to address specific emergent at-table issues by banning certain feats or spells (which are chosen in a fashion much closer to point buy) than it is to meddle with the class constructions.

WarKitty
2017-11-27, 01:56 AM
I don't think choice informs the difference so much that the greater independence of traits in a point buy system makes it easier to adjust for specific problem traits by banning them outright - whether they are too powerful or too weak. For example, in any given superpower game there's bound to be a power write-up that is blatantly OP because someone just didn't quite get the implications or simply screwed up the math. GMs can simply house rule said power out of existence and now you just have one less power in the matrix for your game. In a class based system you can't do that, because once you start banning traits you're pulling pieces out of classes and the intended balance of the system starts to fall apart.

This why in D&D it is generally much easier to address specific emergent at-table issues by banning certain feats or spells (which are chosen in a fashion much closer to point buy) than it is to meddle with the class constructions.

It's also easier to correct by giving someone else a nice power, rather than having to redo the entire concept. Part of the problem with 3.5 is the lower tier classes are built to focus on one thing and one thing only, and there's no good way to add things to them.

Mutazoia
2017-11-27, 06:29 AM
I don't think choice informs the difference so much that the greater independence of traits in a point buy system makes it easier to adjust for specific problem traits by banning them outright - whether they are too powerful or too weak. For example, in any given superpower game there's bound to be a power write-up that is blatantly OP because someone just didn't quite get the implications or simply screwed up the math. GMs can simply house rule said power out of existence and now you just have one less power in the matrix for your game. In a class based system you can't do that, because once you start banning traits you're pulling pieces out of classes and the intended balance of the system starts to fall apart.

This why in D&D it is generally much easier to address specific emergent at-table issues by banning certain feats or spells (which are chosen in a fashion much closer to point buy) than it is to meddle with the class constructions.

Point buy games are not immune to balance issues any more than class based games are. For example, I figured out that a M&M character with about 200 points, can cause an extinction level event, just buy buying 1 point of FTL flight and spending the rest of his points on Mass Increase and flame immunity (works even better if he absorbs the flame damage and feeds it into his Mass Increase). Do a quick orbit around the moon, and slam into the Yellowstone Caldera at FTL speeds with your mass jacked up to several hundred tons...there goes all life on earth....

Sure...ban FTL flight.

Any decently powered earthquake like power centered on the right fault line (or Yellowstone again), and you have the same result....so now your banning earthquakes.

I'm sure you get the point.

If you don't pay close attention when you design the core rules, you are going to have this issue no matter whether you are designing a point buy, or a class based system.

Currently, with 3.X, the issue is that casters, more specifically wizards and sorcs, have too much power readily available, with very little to balance that power out. Which is why we have Batman wizards, and mailman wizards, and very little reason to play a mundane class.

Arbane
2017-11-27, 11:29 PM
Point buy games are not immune to balance issues any more than class based games are. For example, I figured out that a M&M character with about 200 points, can cause an extinction level event, just buy buying 1 point of FTL flight and spending the rest of his points on Mass Increase and flame immunity (works even better if he absorbs the flame damage and feeds it into his Mass Increase). Do a quick orbit around the moon, and slam into the Yellowstone Caldera at FTL speeds with your mass jacked up to several hundred tons...there goes all life on earth....

Sure...ban FTL flight.

Any decently powered earthquake like power centered on the right fault line (or Yellowstone again), and you have the same result....so now your banning earthquakes.

I'm sure you get the point.

If you don't pay close attention when you design the core rules, you are going to have this issue no matter whether you are designing a point buy, or a class based system.

Currently, with 3.X, the issue is that casters, more specifically wizards and sorcs, have too much power readily available, with very little to balance that power out. Which is why we have Batman wizards, and mailman wizards, and very little reason to play a mundane class.

In my experience, most superhero games specifically say the GM can and should ban any game-breaker powers or characters. Unlike D&D, which seems to have this odd legalistic notion that if Pun-Pun CAN be done by the rules, then the GM is REQUIRED to allow it, on pain of... I dunno. Having their HackMaster GM certification revoked, or something.

Mechalich
2017-11-28, 12:01 AM
Point buy games are not immune to balance issues any more than class based games are. For example, I figured out that a M&M character with about 200 points, can cause an extinction level event, just buy buying 1 point of FTL flight and spending the rest of his points on Mass Increase and flame immunity (works even better if he absorbs the flame damage and feeds it into his Mass Increase). Do a quick orbit around the moon, and slam into the Yellowstone Caldera at FTL speeds with your mass jacked up to several hundred tons...there goes all life on earth....

Sure...ban FTL flight.

Any decently powered earthquake like power centered on the right fault line (or Yellowstone again), and you have the same result....so now your banning earthquakes.

I'm sure you get the point.

If you don't pay close attention when you design the core rules, you are going to have this issue no matter whether you are designing a point buy, or a class based system.

Currently, with 3.X, the issue is that casters, more specifically wizards and sorcs, have too much power readily available, with very little to balance that power out. Which is why we have Batman wizards, and mailman wizards, and very little reason to play a mundane class.

In a system with all powers possible then yes, it's pretty easy to break the world in half if the GM doesn't put their foot down. You can do this in even theoretically low-powered games like Mage: the Ascension where players make arguments about using Entropy 2 to kill stars if you manage to get enough successes. Such a game requires a different managerial style: for instance if Quake is going to try and use her powers to trigger the Yellowstone supervolcano she's going to have to hit the fault line just right which in practice means a roll so difficult it will have a probability of success of effectively zero (I have run mage games where people have tried to do something absurd and the natural response is, 'okay, get twenty-five successes at diff 10').

In a system with a discrete set of available powers, point buy has managerial advantages over classes in terms of blocking builds. For example, in VtM, a simple move to improve game balance is to forbid any character from having excessive dots in any one background, because a character with Resources 5 or Backup 5 (or 6+ dots in any background) can potentially replace the entire party using just those traits.

Mutazoia
2017-11-28, 01:42 AM
In my experience, most superhero games specifically say the GM can and should ban any game-breaker powers or characters. Unlike D&D, which seems to have this odd legalistic notion that if Pun-Pun CAN be done by the rules, then the GM is REQUIRED to allow it, on pain of... I dunno. Having their HackMaster GM certification revoked, or something.

Rule Zero. 'Nuff said :)


In a system with all powers possible then yes, it's pretty easy to break the world in half if the GM doesn't put their foot down. You can do this in even theoretically low-powered games like Mage: the Ascension where players make arguments about using Entropy 2 to kill stars if you manage to get enough successes. Such a game requires a different managerial style: for instance if Quake is going to try and use her powers to trigger the Yellowstone supervolcano she's going to have to hit the fault line just right which in practice means a roll so difficult it will have a probability of success of effectively zero (I have run mage games where people have tried to do something absurd and the natural response is, 'okay, get twenty-five successes at diff 10').

In a system with a discrete set of available powers, point buy has managerial advantages over classes in terms of blocking builds. For example, in VtM, a simple move to improve game balance is to forbid any character from having excessive dots in any one background, because a character with Resources 5 or Backup 5 (or 6+ dots in any background) can potentially replace the entire party using just those traits.

Have you ever looked at the Yellowstone Caldera Fault Map (https://volcano.si.edu/volcanoes/region12/wyoming/yellow/3102yel2.jpg)? There are enough there, that it wouldn't be hard to trigger a quake if you had the necessary super power...

But the point I'm trying to make, is that any system is open for abuse, because no game designer can possible predict from the get-go, every possible combination for powers and skills, and player deviousness to find a loop hole that can possibly predict. This problem gets compounded every time a new splat is released, no matter if it's a point buy or a class based system, as the new splat adds new powers/skills/abilities that were never considered during the initial conception of the game. Your only true method of controlling this, is to disallow all splats, and just play "core only"

RazorChain
2017-11-28, 01:45 AM
Point buy games are not immune to balance issues any more than class based games are. For example, I figured out that a M&M character with about 200 points, can cause an extinction level event, just buy buying 1 point of FTL flight and spending the rest of his points on Mass Increase and flame immunity (works even better if he absorbs the flame damage and feeds it into his Mass Increase). Do a quick orbit around the moon, and slam into the Yellowstone Caldera at FTL speeds with your mass jacked up to several hundred tons...there goes all life on earth....

Sure...ban FTL flight.

Any decently powered earthquake like power centered on the right fault line (or Yellowstone again), and you have the same result....so now your banning earthquakes.

I'm sure you get the point.

If you don't pay close attention when you design the core rules, you are going to have this issue no matter whether you are designing a point buy, or a class based system.

Currently, with 3.X, the issue is that casters, more specifically wizards and sorcs, have too much power readily available, with very little to balance that power out. Which is why we have Batman wizards, and mailman wizards, and very little reason to play a mundane class.

You can do the same thing in Gurps, by taking a lifebane power that covers 100 miles and does 1 in damage and then you just travel around killing all insects and microbes and laugh as you have upset the balance of life on the planet.

But this isn't really what upsets any balance at all....pulling stunts like that is just about being ********. If I make a character that can make nukes just to blow up the planet or in a super game push a giant asteroid to collide with eath then I'm simply playing an villain and you can be sure that a hero is going to stop me.


Back to topic though. In pointbuy games you have more freedom and the GM should put clear boundaries what's allowed and what isn't. If I'm running a fantasy Gurps game and a player shows up with a character that has 100 of his 200 points in a sword skill and that's his only skill then it would be a common courtesy of me as an GM to advise him to change his character before some NPC puts a crossbow bolt in the back of his head because I didn't want that character in play.

Most people are worried about combat balance, I'm used to playing point buy games where some players make PC's with crappy combat skills because they are good at other things. When something is considered OP in such a game either the point price is readjusted to represent its value or some other limit is imposed. In many games it's smart play and a smart player that get the spotlight and nobody cares if Mr. Shy in the corner has a character that is can really wreak havoc when it's clobberig time. It's when Mr. Smart has rules mastery in a game where balance is all over the place and exploits the system to his advantage to stay perennially in the limelight that balance becomes a problem.

If I make a pacifist PC that holds all life sacred and seeks nonviolent solutions but he has the powers of one punch man then balance is achieved, even if he can one punch everything.

Florian
2017-11-28, 05:12 AM
Game balance has always been an issue.

I don't think I've ever seen an RPG that successfully mapped X characters with Y resources to Z challenge.

I´d say that some of the roots of the hobby are what causes issues - namely the simulation aspect of wargaming, still prevalent in turn-based combat (meaning we try to map "I poke it with a stick" and "I cast wish" to individual effects and actions)

In addition, newer games try to be more inclusive to different kind of gamers, from the more competitive types, to "short play" (like delves, missions, organized play), as well as your classic sandbox, long campaign or hex crawl.

Now looking at things like the "Delve" format, which should be done in roughly 2 hours, is very focussed as nothing exists outside the "Delve", then sure, every individual action counts and should in a way be "balanced", as spotlight is defined by a limited number of rounds to play.

Also note that non-sim games don´t tend to run into balance issues, as they focus more on "impact" than "action".


Back to topic though. In pointbuy games you have more freedom and the GM should put clear boundaries what's allowed and what isn't. If I'm running a fantasy Gurps game and a player shows up with a character that has 100 of his 200 points in a sword skill and that's his only skill then it would be a common courtesy of me as an GM to advise him to change his character before some NPC puts a crossbow bolt in the back of his head because I didn't want that character in play.

I really, really like the game "Splittermond", as it uses a hybrid of class and point buy. You build your character through various stages (Race, Background, Occupation, Training), each stage giving you an equal amount of fixed and free-floating points, as well as an limit on point allocation. Second thing, the game is divided into three more or less equal subsystems (Combat, Exploration, Social), with each skill having one application for each of the three subsystems (Example: Being a trained sailor gives a combat bonus on moving ground and helps talking about mercantile matters), so whatever you build, a character can always participate in all three areas.

WarKitty
2017-11-28, 08:23 AM
You can do the same thing in Gurps, by taking a lifebane power that covers 100 miles and does 1 in damage and then you just travel around killing all insects and microbes and laugh as you have upset the balance of life on the planet.

But this isn't really what upsets any balance at all....pulling stunts like that is just about being ********. If I make a character that can make nukes just to blow up the planet or in a super game push a giant asteroid to collide with eath then I'm simply playing an villain and you can be sure that a hero is going to stop me.

I think there's a relevant distinction to be made here. There are powers that you look at and think, well, if I wanted to be a jerk, I could combine X and Y and a little creativity and do something game-breaking.

There are also builds where two players can both go "oh hey, this looks like a fun option" and it turns out one of the players is relevant 85% of the time, and the other is only relevant 10% of the time, or something.

I don't think you necessarily need to defend against people trying to break the game. The fix for that is to tell your player to stop being a jerk. What you need to watch for is when people are building their characters to do things that make sense in the system, around concepts that they enjoy and that aren't necessarily obviously imbalanced, and it ends up with one person being able to do everything.

Max_Killjoy
2017-11-28, 09:13 AM
Honestly, if someone tried to dump one of these worldbreaker powers/stunts on my campaign and destroy the planet, I'd say something like "Congratulations, your character split reality and dies in an alternate reality all alone, the rest of the world stays in this reality and never notices anything but the distant sound of thunder. If you want to keep playing, make a new character... who can't do what you just did."

Arbane
2017-11-28, 11:00 AM
You can do the same thing in Gurps, by taking a lifebane power that covers 100 miles and does 1 in damage and then you just travel around killing all insects and microbes and laugh as you have upset the balance of life on the planet.

Oh, you can do WAY worse than that in GURPS. (http://forums.sjgames.com/showthread.php?p=239055)


Munchkin's Universe-shaking Nondirectional Cosmic Hyperluminal Kinetoelectromagnetic Interference Neurodisrupter (M.U.N.C.H.K.I.N.) (+5190%):

Toxic Attack 1 point (Affects Insubstantial, +20%; Area Effect, 2475880078570760549798248448 yards (about 74 gigaparsecs), +4550%; Cosmic, Irresistible attack, +300%; Emanation, -20%; Rapid Fire, RoF 300, +300%; Selective Area, +20%; Underwater, +20%) [53].

Notes: It's a cosmic attack, literally. Pulses of cosmic energy that radiate from the attacker (reaching 74 gigaparsecs in a flat second) burn out the neural system of living beings in the affected area, and remember that even the edge of our universe is "merely" about 10 gigaparsecs away from Earth. Also note that an Area Effect attack with Emanation involves no to-hit roll and simply affects anyone in the area. Furthermore, it allows victims only to dive for cover, and actually there's no effective cover since this Cosmic, Irresistible attack ignores DR. In conclusion, the user can attack every living thing in our entire universe, with 1 point of damage, 300 times per second. Have fun. 53 points.

IIRC, the rulebook for Wild Talents includes a 'Turn off the Sun' power as an example, just to get it out of everyone's system.

Malfarian
2017-11-28, 11:20 AM
I think I believed parties MUST be balanced until I played Vampire the Masquerade. Here you didn't have classes, though you had clans and they were similar but the roles were quite versatile. We NEVER thought about balance, it was more about how we all fit together and play the game. Those games were much more stable and ran much longer than ANY D&D game I ever ran, as the players were fully immersed in the world and had a sense of ownership and belonging.

I'm taking the thread off topic a little bit, but what I'd like to say is that I don't think parties should worry about balance at the outset. People naturally take different roles during play, so I would allow players to "remap" to a different class to match the role they play, as until you know the party dynamics, it's hard to know what you want to do. That is to say I think parties will balance themselves, in so much as they'll hate being weak in one area or another.

Max_Killjoy
2017-11-28, 12:03 PM
Part of that has to do with what the campaign is going to spotlight. If half of every session will be combat, then being "balanced" by being the smooth talker or the tech expert who is weak in combat isn't much consolation.

Cosi
2017-11-28, 12:08 PM
It's also easier to correct by giving someone else a nice power, rather than having to redo the entire concept. Part of the problem with 3.5 is the lower tier classes are built to focus on one thing and one thing only, and there's no good way to add things to them.

Not from the class, but it's fairly easy to throw underpowered characters magic item powerups. Give the Barbarian an artifact ax or club or whatever.

CharonsHelper
2017-11-28, 12:08 PM
Part of that has to do with what the campaign is going to spotlight. If half of every session will be combat, then being "balanced" by being the smooth talker or the tech expert who is weak in combat isn't much consolation.

This.

You don't need combat balance so long as the other pillars are large parts of the game and the roles don't step on each-others' toes.

VtM is so easy to break though - I can only think that you and your friends weren't really trying to optimize much. (Which is great and the only good way to play such a poorly balanced system.)

Nifft
2017-11-28, 01:38 PM
I think I believed parties MUST be balanced until I played Vampire the Masquerade. Here you didn't have classes, though you had clans and they were similar but the roles were quite versatile. We NEVER thought about balance, it was more about how we all fit together and play the game. Those games were much more stable and ran much longer than ANY D&D game I ever ran, as the players were fully immersed in the world and had a sense of ownership and belonging.

I'm taking the thread off topic a little bit, but what I'd like to say is that I don't think parties should worry about balance at the outset. People naturally take different roles during play, so I would allow players to "remap" to a different class to match the role they play, as until you know the party dynamics, it's hard to know what you want to do. That is to say I think parties will balance themselves, in so much as they'll hate being weak in one area or another.

Vampire characters also had significant base competencies & survival tools built in.

If you raise everybody to a high base competency, then the individual differences above & beyond that might not seem like such a big deal.

Cosi
2017-11-28, 01:41 PM
Vampire characters also had significant base competencies & survival tools built in.

If you raise everybody to a high base competency, then the individual differences above & beyond that might not seem like such a big deal.

This is true. Imbalance is a lot more acceptable if everyone has something to do, even if those things aren't necessarily the best. Having one useful ability while someone else has ten is much less of a problem than having no useful abilities when someone else has one.

SirBellias
2017-11-28, 02:01 PM
For the current game I'm running, I gave people the ability to make extremely overpowered characters for various types of play. All I told the players was that they should try to stick together as much as possible and have a reasonable excuse to do so (or at least know each other). Some of them made highly optimized death machines, and some of them didn't. They all understood that the world would be very dangerous; some of them just didn't care about raw power.

I talked to each of them about their characters' places in the world and goals they had. Some of them gave me immediate goals, some of them gave me long-term goals, and some didn't give me any. This had little to no correlation with power levels.

They each built their character to excel at different things (I guess it's lucky that no one tried to top each other), so I made sure to throw an even mix of whatever they were good at in. One trashed all the combat encounters, one lead the party through a primal jungle full of nasties safely, the third made sure to know the forgotten lore of the world and tried to steer everyone to the best course of action in that light.

At any one aspect of the game, the party would seem incredibly unbalanced. But as a whole, they mostly succeeded at everything they worked together on. They all had conflicting goals to start with (and end with), which introduced some interesting role play.

No one complained, and everyone wants to keep going.

I think I'm trying to say that balance isn't too much of an issue as long as you (as a DM) either have multiples paths that they can take to their goals or play to each character's strengths. Preferably both.

Talakeal
2017-11-28, 03:12 PM
I think I believed parties MUST be balanced until I played Vampire the Masquerade. Here you didn't have classes, though you had clans and they were similar but the roles were quite versatile. We NEVER thought about balance, it was more about how we all fit together and play the game. Those games were much more stable and ran much longer than ANY D&D game I ever ran, as the players were fully immersed in the world and had a sense of ownership and belonging.

I'm taking the thread off topic a little bit, but what I'd like to say is that I don't think parties should worry about balance at the outset. People naturally take different roles during play, so I would allow players to "remap" to a different class to match the role they play, as until you know the party dynamics, it's hard to know what you want to do. That is to say I think parties will balance themselves, in so much as they'll hate being weak in one area or another.

Yeah, this is why there was some confusion about whther the discussion was about mechanical balance between classes or balanced parties.
Wheer or not a fighter is balanced against a wizard is a very different conversation than whether a group of four fighters is a viable option.

RazorChain
2017-11-28, 04:28 PM
Yeah, this is why there was some confusion about whther the discussion was about mechanical balance between classes or balanced parties.
Wheer or not a fighter is balanced against a wizard is a very different conversation than whether a group of four fighters is a viable option.

I rarely use published modules and when I do I adapt it to what I'm running. So if there are 4 fighters it doesnt matter at all. I think there is no way to use published modules to benchmark game balance

Nifft
2017-11-28, 05:17 PM
I rarely use published modules and when I do I adapt it to what I'm running. So if there are 4 fighters it doesnt matter at all. I think there is no way to use published modules to benchmark game balance

Modules could be used as an external metric of party balance against the expectations of the module's designer(s).

IMHO that metric is far less interesting than the metric of internal party balance, because I'm much more interested in making a fun game for the players at my table than I am interested in the expectations of strangers, but technically the expectations of strangers could be used as some kind of benchmark... it's just one I don't care about.

Talakeal
2017-11-28, 05:45 PM
I rarely use published modules and when I do I adapt it to what I'm running. So if there are 4 fighters it doesnt matter at all. I think there is no way to use published modules to benchmark game balance

Yeah, that is certainly a valid way to do it.

I used to tailor adventures to the party, but a while back we ran into a phenomenon my group dubbed "the cycle of stupidity" where we devolved into an optimization arms race where I would always try and challenge the players so they would in turn power game even harder.

Now I just make adventures that make sense in the world and let the players play whatever they want (within reason).

WarKitty
2017-11-28, 06:51 PM
I think I believed parties MUST be balanced until I played Vampire the Masquerade. Here you didn't have classes, though you had clans and they were similar but the roles were quite versatile. We NEVER thought about balance, it was more about how we all fit together and play the game. Those games were much more stable and ran much longer than ANY D&D game I ever ran, as the players were fully immersed in the world and had a sense of ownership and belonging.

I'm taking the thread off topic a little bit, but what I'd like to say is that I don't think parties should worry about balance at the outset. People naturally take different roles during play, so I would allow players to "remap" to a different class to match the role they play, as until you know the party dynamics, it's hard to know what you want to do. That is to say I think parties will balance themselves, in so much as they'll hate being weak in one area or another.


Not from the class, but it's fairly easy to throw underpowered characters magic item powerups. Give the Barbarian an artifact ax or club or whatever.

Except the problem in 3.5 isn't that one character is doing more damage than another, it's that one character has so many options than another. So the problem you hit is that the barbarian can do one thing - do lots of damage in melee. The wizard, if played with even half a brain, can do damage, summon other things to do damage, cast spells that essentially render an enemy helpless, ability drain enemies to death, stop time, fly, turn invisible...you get the point. It's not that the barbarian is bad at what he does, it's that if what he does isn't the best way to solve something he's pretty much twiddling his thumbs.

Basically, the problem is one guy's role is "do lots of melee damage" and the other one's is "rewrite reality." The latter role will naturally obviate the first, without any special effort to break the game.

PhoenixPhyre
2017-11-28, 07:02 PM
Except the problem in 3.5 isn't that one character is doing more damage than another, it's that one character has so many options than another. So the problem you hit is that the barbarian can do one thing - do lots of damage in melee. The wizard, if played with even half a brain, can do damage, summon other things to do damage, cast spells that essentially render an enemy helpless, ability drain enemies to death, stop time, fly, turn invisible...you get the point. It's not that the barbarian is bad at what he does, it's that if what he does isn't the best way to solve something he's pretty much twiddling his thumbs.

Basically, the problem is one guy's role is "do lots of melee damage" and the other one's is "rewrite reality." The latter role will naturally obviate the first, without any special effort to break the game.

Exactly. Damage isn't the problem here at all. Its that any martial build that can do enough damage to keep up is simultaneously incapable of meaningfully contributing outside of that. Doing 1e9 damage to something that has ~200 HP doesn't matter if that's all you can do--someone that can do 250 damage and do everything else. Oh, and the martial needs the caster's help to even get close to enemies, but the reverse isn't true. That's the inter-class issue here.

Mechalich
2017-11-28, 08:18 PM
Exactly. Damage isn't the problem here at all. Its that any martial build that can do enough damage to keep up is simultaneously incapable of meaningfully contributing outside of that. Doing 1e9 damage to something that has ~200 HP doesn't matter if that's all you can do--someone that can do 250 damage and do everything else. Oh, and the martial needs the caster's help to even get close to enemies, but the reverse isn't true. That's the inter-class issue here.

This is not a problem unique to D&D either. It certainly can happen in a game like VtM. You can easily build a combat monster vampire who is only good at hurting things (and in fact, the classic newbie Brujah build falls into this zone) and someone else can build a vampire who dumps all of their freebie points into backgrounds and has a minion for everything from combat to legal wrangling to hacking and anything else you could possibly need. This is actually a major issue for almost any game set in the modern world where wealth is a massive superpower and being Bruce Wayne is actually way more powerful than being Batman.

RazorChain
2017-11-28, 09:47 PM
Modules could be used as an external metric of party balance against the expectations of the module's designer(s).

IMHO that metric is far less interesting than the metric of internal party balance, because I'm much more interested in making a fun game for the players at my table than I am interested in the expectations of strangers, but technically the expectations of strangers could be used as some kind of benchmark... it's just one I don't care about.

I don't care about external balance either as it's meaningless, especially in point buy games where it has happened that not one character was combat focused. Internal balance doesn't matter that much if everybody is having fun. It only becomes a problem when someone has a problem with the balance. Most people don't care that much if everybody gets some time in the limelight.

That being said I still believe that game designers should strive for a semblance of balance.


Yeah, that is certainly a valid way to do it.

I used to tailor adventures to the party, but a while back we ran into a phenomenon my group dubbed "the cycle of stupidity" where we devolved into an optimization arms race where I would always try and challenge the players so they would in turn power game even harder.

Now I just make adventures that make sense in the world and let the players play whatever they want (within reason).

A group I was playing with encountered this problem when we were teenagers playing Cyberpunk 2020. Cyberpunk is the poster child of equipment porn with all the splatbooks giving more options of cyberwear, bioware, guns and armor. In the end you can tweak your guns, custom design your armor, get some of that sweet humanity back through therapy so you can stuff your body with more cyberwear. In the end our characters were Terminators with big effing guns and enough armor to withstand a HEAT round from a tank. It was about escalation, the referee had the bad guys show up with bigger guns to counter us, so we countered with bigger guns

WarKitty
2017-11-28, 10:40 PM
This is not a problem unique to D&D either. It certainly can happen in a game like VtM. You can easily build a combat monster vampire who is only good at hurting things (and in fact, the classic newbie Brujah build falls into this zone) and someone else can build a vampire who dumps all of their freebie points into backgrounds and has a minion for everything from combat to legal wrangling to hacking and anything else you could possibly need. This is actually a major issue for almost any game set in the modern world where wealth is a massive superpower and being Bruce Wayne is actually way more powerful than being Batman.

Minions are one way that can break something pretty easily. NWoD has the famously broken retainer merit, which can get you someone way too powerful. And there's a reason most D&D DM's ban leadership. Summons can be a problem too, if you can easily summon something that can do a player's job.

2D8HP
2017-11-28, 11:12 PM
...being Bruce Wayne is actually way more powerful than being Batman..
Sig-worthy!

CharonsHelper
2017-11-28, 11:23 PM
This is actually a major issue for almost any game set in the modern world where wealth is a massive superpower and being Bruce Wayne is actually way more powerful than being Batman.

There are ways around it - such as not allowing wealth to be gained so easily. But - I do agree that many modern and/or sci-fi games fall into that trap.

It could happen in a fantasy game since you could do the same thing with magic gear & minions - but I haven't seen it.

WarKitty
2017-11-28, 11:49 PM
There are ways around it - such as not allowing wealth to be gained so easily. But - I do agree that many modern and/or sci-fi games fall into that trap.

It could happen in a fantasy game since you could do the same thing with magic gear & minions - but I haven't seen it.

As a WoD ST, what I'd do is just limit what you can do with wealth. Remember, WoD characters don't generally want to be paid attention to. If you're buying things through normal channels, there's all sorts of government watchlists you could end up on if you buy the wrong things. If you're buying things that aren't legal, well, when lots of money ends up in the black market people go nosing around for the source. And hired minions are only as loyal as their paychecks - no paycheck will keep them quiet if there's a gun to their heads, or even if they're looking at a long jail sentence. And if you're not careful, you might find yourself in trouble. Say with your bank accounts frozen by the FBI. Or with someone blackmailing you.

RazorChain
2017-11-29, 01:39 AM
As a WoD ST, what I'd do is just limit what you can do with wealth. Remember, WoD characters don't generally want to be paid attention to. If you're buying things through normal channels, there's all sorts of government watchlists you could end up on if you buy the wrong things. If you're buying things that aren't legal, well, when lots of money ends up in the black market people go nosing around for the source. And hired minions are only as loyal as their paychecks - no paycheck will keep them quiet if there's a gun to their heads, or even if they're looking at a long jail sentence. And if you're not careful, you might find yourself in trouble. Say with your bank accounts frozen by the FBI. Or with someone blackmailing you.

When playing VtM money was usually not an issue nor illegal weapons. If your assets were frozen then it was because something (mage, hunter, vampire etc) was after you, mortals were usually just puppets in the grander scheme of things.

When you can dominate, entrance or bloodbind mortals, they usually don't pose much problems.

The real problems were that all our assets could be taken and it wasn't mortals that worried us but other kindred might have used their powers to seize our assets to use against us. That's why we operated in the shadows, had multiple safe houses and contingency plans for our contingency plans.

WarKitty
2017-11-29, 02:01 AM
When playing VtM money was usually not an issue nor illegal weapons. If your assets were frozen then it was because something (mage, hunter, vampire etc) was after you, mortals were usually just puppets in the grander scheme of things.

When you can dominate, entrance or bloodbind mortals, they usually don't pose much problems.

The real problems were that all our assets could be taken and it wasn't mortals that worried us but other kindred might have used their powers to seize our assets to use against us. That's why we operated in the shadows, had multiple safe houses and contingency plans for our contingency plans.

I suppose it depends on the setup. Computers are a great weapon for the humans. In a modern government bureaucracy, what do you imagine the odds are that you ever have personal contact with the people who are doing the freezing? It's all done by computers run by many different people and you probably can't find and control all of them without tipping someone else off...

Then again, I'm more used to nWoD, which is a little less overpowered.

Mutazoia
2017-11-29, 02:07 AM
This.

You don't need combat balance so long as the other pillars are large parts of the game and the roles don't step on each-others' toes.

VtM is so easy to break though - I can only think that you and your friends weren't really trying to optimize much. (Which is great and the only good way to play such a poorly balanced system.)

Optimization wasn't a thing when VtM arrived on the RPG scene. Optimization is a fairly recent development, with the birth of the internet and forums such as this one.

And the whole "how we all fit together" bit...that's party balance.

WarKitty
2017-11-29, 02:42 AM
Optimization wasn't a thing when VtM arrived on the RPG scene. Optimization is a fairly recent development, with the birth of the internet and forums such as this one.

And the whole "how we all fit together" bit...that's party balance.

I think this might also be worse in 3.5 because, mechanically, 3.5 is mostly combat. The skill system reads as something of an afterthought. There's just not a lot of room for a character that's good at something other than combat when 90% of the game is combat.

Mutazoia
2017-11-29, 02:52 AM
I think this might also be worse in 3.5 because, mechanically, 3.5 is mostly combat. The skill system reads as something of an afterthought. There's just not a lot of room for a character that's good at something other than combat when 90% of the game is combat.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, 3.X was just a horrible mash up of 2e's imbalance issues, which were copy-pasta'd on top of WotC's failed D20 RPGs imbalance issues.

If WotC had just replaced the old THAC0 system and saves with the D20 method, worked in the skills and feats (with out adding special feats for casters), and left everything else as is, I think we would have had a much more stable system, mechanically, that could handle higher power levels better than what we have now.

Personally, I won't run a campaign past level 18 in any edition...things already start braking down around level 10 as it is.

2D8HP
2017-11-29, 04:09 AM
....I won't run a campaign past level 18 in any edition...things already start braking down around level 10 as it is.

The game wasn't originally supposed to have PC's be played at such high levels, see

here (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=X9vECzikqpY),

and

here. (http://kaskoid.blogspot.com/2016/02/how-i-helped-to-pull-rope-that-tolled.html?m=1)

Frozen_Feet
2017-11-29, 04:31 AM
Optimization wasn't a thing when VtM arrived on the RPG scene. Optimization is a fairly recent development, with the birth of the internet and forums such as this one.
Lolwut.

1st ed AD&D Dungeon Master's guide, with the voice of Gary Gygax, all but calls out all players as inherently powerhungry min-maxers who GM must take effort to keep in control. I have RPG magazines from mid 80s and early 90s where people curse the tendencies of AD&D players to game the system.

You seem to forget that RPGs themselves are pretty recent, got popular with math and history nerds, and were computerized practically instantly. (First computer version of D&D, imaginatively named dnd, was made at 1975, a year after D&D was published.) I could go so far as claim that internet forums were invented by obsessive D&D min-maxers, and wouldn't even be horribly wrong, because of the overlap between early D&D players and early computer software and hardware developers. :smalltongue:

Mutazoia
2017-11-29, 04:56 AM
Lolwut.

1st ed AD&D Dungeon Master's guide, with the voice of Gary Gygax, all but calls out all players as inherently powerhungry min-maxers who GM must take effort to keep in control. I have RPG magazines from mid 80s and early 90s where people curse the tendencies of AD&D players to game the system.

You seem to forget that RPGs themselves are pretty recent, got popular with math and history nerds, and were computerized practically instantly. (First computer version of D&D, imaginatively named dnd, was made at 1975, a year after D&D was published.) I could go so far as claim that internet forums were invented by obsessive D&D min-maxers, and wouldn't even be horribly wrong, because of the overlap between early D&D players and early computer software and hardware developers. :smalltongue:

So you are saying that everybody who optimizes their characters are nothing but a bunch of min-maxers with a new name? I tend to agree.

Frozen_Feet
2017-11-29, 05:12 AM
Well duh. Min-maxing is a specific optimization strategy. Hence all people who min-max are optimizers. Has there ever been significant confusion about this? :smalltongue:

WarKitty
2017-11-29, 05:24 AM
I think the question is whether the reverse is true. All A are B does not imply all B are A, after all.

If nothing else, with 3.5 it's possible to optimize character concepts that aren't a great mechanical concept. I have a few - my latest is a sling-based rogue, and I have a fun one with a "werebeast" (no actual were levels involved because they're essentially unplayable, mind).

Mutazoia
2017-11-29, 05:57 AM
Well duh. Min-maxing is a specific optimization strategy. Hence all people who min-max are optimizers. Has there ever been significant confusion about this? :smalltongue:

It's been my experience that heavy optimizers get really insulted of you refer to them as Min-maxers :smallbiggrin:

Frozen_Feet
2017-11-29, 06:18 AM
I think the question is whether the reverse is true. All A are B does not imply all B are A, after all.

Insofar as there are optimization strategies that don't reduce to min-maxing on some level, not all optimizers are min-maxers.

Can you think of a single optimization strategy which doesn't involve min-maxing?


It's been my experience that heavy optimizers get really insulted of you refer to them as Min-maxers :smallbiggrin:

Yes, and escorts get really insulted if you call them whores. News at eleven. :smalltongue:

Knaight
2017-11-29, 06:23 AM
Can you think of a single optimization strategy which doesn't involve min-maxing?

Point efficiency in starting characters in systems with mixed resource expenditures - for all that I like Ubiquity it's really guilty of this, as you can make a statistically identical character for varying starting costs depending on which order you build them in. There's no min-maxing involved when you're just maxing. GURPS has a similar scenario involving getting desired skills to desired levels where fiddling with baseline attributes can get the same thing cheaper.

Then there's FATE optimization, which can involve some min-maxing but also emphasizes making interesting and memorable Aspects so they get used heavily.

Mutazoia
2017-11-29, 06:29 AM
I think the question is whether the reverse is true. All A are B does not imply all B are A, after all.

All penguins are black and white.
All old movies are black and white.
Therefore, all old movies are penguins.

Or if you prefer:

All of John Lennon is dead, but only some of the class of dead people are John Lennon.

Florian
2017-11-29, 07:19 AM
Can you think of a single optimization strategy which doesn't involve min-maxing?

Lots, yes, starting with spotlight, teamwork, storytelling and development, the list goes on.

CharonsHelper
2017-11-29, 07:59 AM
All penguins are black and white.
All old movies are black and white.
Therefore, all old movies are penguins.

Or if you prefer:

All of John Lennon is dead, but only some of the class of dead people are John Lennon.

The first one is an entirely different fallacy - and the second is arbitrarily confusingly written.

I prefer -

"All dogs are poodles, but not all poodles are dogs."

WarKitty
2017-11-29, 08:06 AM
Insofar as there are optimization strategies that don't reduce to min-maxing on some level, not all optimizers are min-maxers.

Can you think of a single optimization strategy which doesn't involve min-maxing?

First one that comes to mind is optimizing for a concept. E.g. "I want to be the best sling-focused thief I can be!" You're optimizing, but at least in 3.5, you're optimizing something that's never going to be a superpowered character.

Darth Ultron
2017-11-29, 08:45 AM
Lots, yes, starting with spotlight, teamwork, storytelling and development, the list goes on.

So are you talking about the Classic Optimizer problem of players that can't Role Play unless their character has a huge overwhelming mechanical roll play advantage advantage? The poor optimizer that can not Role Play lying in character, unless their character has like a +20 in the Bluff Skill.

Or just the Optimizer that can't Role Play at all, unless there character can hit and do massive amounts of damage. You know, because they ''can't'' role play something like ''being a greedy dwarf'' unless they can do 101 points of damage in a single attack....

Max_Killjoy
2017-11-29, 08:57 AM
Optimization wasn't a thing when VtM arrived on the RPG scene. Optimization is a fairly recent development, with the birth of the internet and forums such as this one.


Don't confuse the internet phenomenon of "forum builds" with players being able to read the rules, and do the math. Optimization, including MinMaxing (as discussed below), is almost as old as RPGs.



Lolwut.

1st ed AD&D Dungeon Master's guide, with the voice of Gary Gygax, all but calls out all players as inherently powerhungry min-maxers who GM must take effort to keep in control. I have RPG magazines from mid 80s and early 90s where people curse the tendencies of AD&D players to game the system.

You seem to forget that RPGs themselves are pretty recent, got popular with math and history nerds, and were computerized practically instantly. (First computer version of D&D, imaginatively named dnd, was made at 1975, a year after D&D was published.) I could go so far as claim that internet forums were invented by obsessive D&D min-maxers, and wouldn't even be horribly wrong, because of the overlap between early D&D players and early computer software and hardware developers. :smalltongue:


Gygax was also the original adversarial TPK-eager GM. :smallwink: For all he contributed to the birth of RPGs, he's also the seed of some very toxic intragroup attitudes.

I'd be looking for every advantage possible if I were sitting across the table from him, just to keep my character alive.




So you are saying that everybody who optimizes their characters are nothing but a bunch of min-maxers with a new name? I tend to agree.


Does that really advance the discussion?




Well duh. Min-maxing is a specific optimization strategy. Hence all people who min-max are optimizers. Has there ever been significant confusion about this? :smalltongue:




I think the question is whether the reverse is true. All A are B does not imply all B are A, after all.

If nothing else, with 3.5 it's possible to optimize character concepts that aren't a great mechanical concept. I have a few - my latest is a sling-based rogue, and I have a fun one with a "werebeast" (no actual were levels involved because they're essentially unplayable, mind).




First one that comes to mind is optimizing for a concept. E.g. "I want to be the best sling-focused thief I can be!" You're optimizing, but at least in 3.5, you're optimizing something that's never going to be a superpowered character.


Just because some players abuse optimization to make game-breaking characters, doesn't mean that all optimization is badwrongfun.

If I'm trying to make a character concept fit into the available character creation resources, that's optimization, but it might well not end up with the most powerful character possible.

If I'm trying to tweak a character to fit into the general level of power of the rest of the PCs, that's optimization, but it might well not be targeting FULL POWER BUILD.

Somehow, along the way "knowing the rules" and "understanding the math" became verboten, filthy, dirty things in the minds of some players.

RazorChain
2017-11-29, 09:06 AM
First one that comes to mind is optimizing for a concept. E.g. "I want to be the best sling-focused thief I can be!" You're optimizing, but at least in 3.5, you're optimizing something that's never going to be a superpowered character.

I agree, when you take a sub optimal concept and try to make it work you often have to optimize to make the character viable...but then it isn't really optimizing because you started with a SUB optimal choice to start with.

I optimized my martial artist that I brought into a Lovecraftian game but most people would just tell me from the start that my character had a deathwish where the antagonists are either toting guns or monster that you'd rather shoot at with a rocket launcher. Was the character optimized then, no because by just bying up a gun skill would have required less stats, less point investures, done more damage and been safer to the characters health.


I as a GM have never had any problems with optimizers, min-maxers or munchkins as I have all the tools to deal with their shenanigans, problem only arises when their minmaxing is to the detriment of the other players fun

If everybody is minmaxing then there is no problem. If you have roleplayers that want to roleplay and not game some numbers then a minmaxer can ruin the fun.

If my players treat roleplaying as a game then I'll do the same. If the players minmax their characters then I'll do the same with the npcs. If the players insist on using stupid rules to break immersion and metagame then I'll do the same.

The king will have a dungeon under his palace to train his forces, where they'll have to get past other guards and grab some treasure. As GP=XP then the king will level up his forces who will pay his trainers the gold to gain levels. Then the king will take the gold from his trainers and place the treasure again in the dungeon so others can get it and level up. I mean everybody knows that just training and studying has never amounted to anything.

The villain can never be killed as he saw the potential of true resurrection and owns an insurance company that specializes in resurrections and just uses wish to gain 25.000 GP of gems everyday, in fact every time his henchmen get killed they get resurrected.

Max_Killjoy
2017-11-29, 09:17 AM
The king will have a dungeon under his palace to train his forces, where they'll have to get past other guards and grab some treasure. As GP=XP then the king will level up his forces who will pay his trainers the gold to gain levels. Then the king will take the gold from his trainers and place the treasure again in the dungeon so others can get it and level up. I mean everybody knows that just training and studying has never amounted to anything.


Which also happens to be a classic example of the rules telling us something about the world that's very different from what the fiction/fluff is telling us about the world.

Nifft
2017-11-29, 09:42 AM
Don't confuse the internet phenomenon of "forum builds" with players being able to read the rules, and do the math. Optimization, including MinMaxing (as discussed below), is almost as old as RPGs. Older, I'd argue.

Wargamers optimized before RPGs existed.

Max_Killjoy
2017-11-29, 10:02 AM
Older, I'd argue.

Wargamers optimized before RPGs existed.

Good point.

Frozen_Feet
2017-11-29, 10:04 AM
Lots, yes, starting with spotlight, teamwork, storytelling and development, the list goes on.

Out of those teamwork is the only optimization strategy, and empathetically does involve min-maxing in the form of division of labour.

What optimization strategies, as pertains to spotlight, storytelling and development, are you talking about, that do not involve it?


First one that comes to mind is optimizing for a concept. E.g. "I want to be the best sling-focused thief I can be!" You're optimizing, but at least in 3.5, you're optimizing something that's never going to be a superpowered character.

... and? You're talking of what, you're optimizing, not how. I'd bet money that any mechanical optimization of a sling-focused thief in 3.x. D&D trivially counts as an example of min-maxing.

---

@Max_Killjoy: I'm not really arguing that optimization is bad, here. Just trying to prove the trivial fact that it's been present in the hobby since the start. :smallwink:

The question of whether every optimizer is also a min-maxer is just an amusing tangent.

Max_Killjoy
2017-11-29, 10:10 AM
@Max_Killjoy: I'm not really arguing that optimization is bad, here. Just trying to prove the trivial fact that it's been present in the hobby since the start. :smallwink:

The question of whether every optimizer is also a min-maxer is just an amusing tangent.


Right, sorry if that came across as pointing a finger at you, it wasn't meant that way.

But I have seen, here and elsewhere, those who consider any concern at all for "the math" to be anathema to "good roleplaying" and/or to having fun -- the Stormwind Fallacy being just one form this attitude takes.

WarKitty
2017-11-29, 10:50 AM
... and? You're talking of what, you're optimizing, not how. I'd bet money that any mechanical optimization of a sling-focused thief in 3.x. D&D trivially counts as an example of min-maxing.

I'm not sure words can be entirely encompassed by short dictionary definitions in that sense in a way that really captures what the terms actually mean in a natural language setting. Min-maxing generally implies making a character who's very good at a powerful option, at the expense of not being much else. That's a narrower term than optimization.

(As a side note, that's exactly what's often recommended for those of us who really like the optimization game in games like 3.5. Pick a concept that's got really terrible support, optimize as best you can, and you'll come up with something halfway decent.)

Tinkerer
2017-11-29, 11:41 AM
I'm not sure words can be entirely encompassed by short dictionary definitions in that sense in a way that really captures what the terms actually mean in a natural language setting. Min-maxing generally implies making a character who's very good at a powerful option, at the expense of not being much else. That's a narrower term than optimization.

Yeah min-max is the classical "Is amazing at what they do but lousy at everything else", where as optimization is creating the most effective character. In some systems these things overlap, in others they don't.

Note: My descriptions for the above terms come mainly from about twenty years ago.

EDIT: Note that when you start talking about optimizing a character within a specific field you start moving more and more into min-max territory as you start drawing resources from elsewhere.

Florian
2017-11-29, 12:00 PM
So are you talking about the Classic Optimizer problem of players that can't Role Play unless their character has a huge overwhelming mechanical roll play advantage advantage? The poor optimizer that can not Role Play lying in character, unless their character has like a +20 in the Bluff Skill.

Or just the Optimizer that can't Role Play at all, unless there character can hit and do massive amounts of damage. You know, because they ''can't'' role play something like ''being a greedy dwarf'' unless they can do 101 points of damage in a single attack....

Actually no, I just mean to say that "optimization" does not necessary mean mechanics (aka min-maxing), depending on what parts of a game system (and group) trigger reward mechanics, which is actually what most people optimize for.

Talakeal
2017-11-29, 02:38 PM
Yeah min-max is the classical "Is amazing at what they do but lousy at everything else", where as optimization is creating the most effective character. In some systems these things overlap, in others they don't.

I have heard two very different definitions of min-max.

The one I normally use is as above, someone who is amazing at one thing but lousy at everything else.

But some people use it to mean maximizing strengths while minimizing weaknesses, in short making an all around OP character.

Max_Killjoy
2017-11-29, 02:42 PM
I have heard two very different definitions of min-max.

The one I normally use is as above, someone who is amazing at one thing but lousy at everything else.

But some people use it to mean maximizing strengths while minimizing weaknesses, in short making an all around OP character.

To me, it's clearly the former, with the infamous "dump stat" discussion involved.

Cosi
2017-11-29, 02:46 PM
Except the problem in 3.5 isn't that one character is doing more damage than another, it's that one character has so many options than another. So the problem you hit is that the barbarian can do one thing - do lots of damage in melee. The wizard, if played with even half a brain, can do damage, summon other things to do damage, cast spells that essentially render an enemy helpless, ability drain enemies to death, stop time, fly, turn invisible...you get the point. It's not that the barbarian is bad at what he does, it's that if what he does isn't the best way to solve something he's pretty much twiddling his thumbs.

Basically, the problem is one guy's role is "do lots of melee damage" and the other one's is "rewrite reality." The latter role will naturally obviate the first, without any special effort to break the game.

Sorry, I should have clarified. I don't mean just a weapon with big bonuses, I mean one with random powers like "is possessed by spirits that cast divination spells" or "makes fire constructs" or whatever.

Frozen_Feet
2017-11-29, 04:10 PM
I have heard two very different definitions of min-max.

The one I normally use is as above, someone who is amazing at one thing but lousy at everything else.

But some people use it to mean maximizing strengths while minimizing weaknesses, in short making an all around OP character.

In practice, these have heavy overlap.

Most generally, min-maxing means minimizing resource expenditure on things outside your specialty in order to maximize your specialty. Quite often, the specialty is chosen based on what would be most dominant strategy in the game, but this is not necessary to count as examplr of min-maxing.

For example, a slinger rogue is not the most powerfull choice in D&D 3.x. but pretty much every step on the way of making it optimal involves min-maxing: placing your highest ability scores into abilities which best support slinging while dumping the rest, picking your feats and flaws based on which would support slinging best while passing on other options, spending most of your money on your sling and supporting equipment etc.

An extreme min-maxed build would be something like a MAD Wizard build which gets Int to everything several times over and uses spellcasting ability based on Int to bypass the need for any other ability score. Such a build would qualify under both definitions.

As noted, min-maxing can exist on levels other than what's on individual character's sheet. Division of labour in teamwork is one example: a group of synergistic specialists is often more effective than a group of generalists.

An optimization strategy which often looks similar to min-maxing but may have a different outcome is aiming for Pareto optimality - that is, trying to find a state where reallocation of resources can not improve a preferred trait without some other preferred trait suffering. This state might bear resemblance to both, one, or none of the min-maxed states, depending on system. Distinct from min-maxing because a min-maxer will ignore the second preferred trait if the returns of the first trait are big enough.

---

@Florian: you too are talking of what people optimize, not how. Min-maxing can be applied to rewards and social relations just as well as character abilities.

Florian
2017-11-29, 05:35 PM
@Florian: you too are talking of what people optimize, not how. Min-maxing can be applied to rewards and social relations just as well as character abilities.

Depends on the system we actually talk about, something I right now don´t have the nerve to do more in-depth, as typing with one hand in a cast is simply a chore.

RazorChain
2017-11-29, 11:06 PM
Right, sorry if that came across as pointing a finger at you, it wasn't meant that way.

But I have seen, here and elsewhere, those who consider any concern at all for "the math" to be anathema to "good roleplaying" and/or to having fun -- the Stormwind Fallacy being just one form this attitude takes.

Of course they aren't mutually exclusive but after playing with bunch of different people over 30 years I've found out that people want different thing from RPGs. This shouldn't come as suprise to anyone.


The people I like to play with are after an immersive experience, the rules are there to faciliate that experience. It doesn't matter much how sub optimal character you bring as you won't be chided for not pulling your weight for the team. The goal isn't to win encounters or win anything at all it's about exploring your character, the setting and have interesting stories emerge. People don't go to the internet to look up the strongest build for anything because if you're looking for a build then you probably don't belong to this group. In fact I didn't hear the word build for roleplaying characters until I joined these forums, the people I gamed with always talked about character concept and those concepts were never about numbers. Character builds I'd only heard talked about in computer games.


Then there are gamers, for them this is a game and in game you'd be stupid not to use any advantage you can get to win or get ahead. Logic should mandate that you should always be making the strongest character possible, just like you should trying to get the most money for your time in RL or finishing your chores in the fastest, easiest way possible. So you dump stats, not because you want to play stupid, uncharismatic fighter but the strongest most powerful fighter...until you find out that Wizards are way better so why play fighters. If you show up with a sub optimal character you will be scoffed at because you aren't pulling your weight for the team, you aren't contributing enough to reach the goal. For someone who is after an immersive experience the goal is the experience itself not killing all the baddies and taking their treasure...that might be their characters goal. Clearly the Adventure modules are designed for the gamer as you can't fail forward, you have to beat part 1 in the adventure to get to part 2 and then proceed to part 3. Scenarios and encounters are the to be beaten whereas for the other group they are to be experienced not beaten.

Most people of course are somewhere in between, both gaming and immersive experince. Some games though have such a jarring disconnect between setting and mechanic that they encourage gaming to the extreme. But mostly balance problems arise when an extremely competitive gamer uses the system to make the strongest character possible to beat all encounters and proceeds to take a dump over other peoples immersion.

Balance in games therefore only become a problem when somebody feels it's a problem.

WarKitty
2017-11-30, 01:00 AM
One thing I feel I have to mention is people can be after a tactical challenge without wanting to necessarily have the most powerful character ever. In fact if you want a tactical challenge, once you've mastered the most powerful characters in 3.5 it's kind of boring. You're so powerful that you can do anything unless it gets the drop on you and you can't do anything. The fun is making a character that has the resources to solve a lot of situations, without necessarily having big "I win" buttons for them.

PhoenixPhyre
2017-11-30, 07:39 AM
One thing I feel I have to mention is people can be after a tactical challenge without wanting to necessarily have the most powerful character ever. In fact if you want a tactical challenge, once you've mastered the most powerful characters in 3.5 it's kind of boring. You're so powerful that you can do anything unless it gets the drop on you and you can't do anything. The fun is making a character that has the resources to solve a lot of situations, without necessarily having big "I win" buttons for them.

Edit: If it wasn't clear, I'm agreeing with you and springboarding off of the middle two sentences.

A common failure state of the "I'm the most powerful" style of play is the "optimization" arms race--one side escalates (often due to competitive feelings between DM and player), the other side counter-escalates to survive, and then the only survival strategy is to optimize. And that has several bad effects--

* At least in D&D it turns into rocket tag, as you've described. The first one to go wins. When the average combat-focused character can do multiples of the average HP pool in a single round, there's no chance for tactics beyond "kill them first."
* It exacerbates any underlying balance issues that may exist. If one character has a high optimization floor and a low ceiling (small variance) and another has a low floor and a high ceiling (large variance), it's easy to break past the first character's ceiling, leaving him or her useless (and probably dead or worse, ignored).
* It rewards lateral meta-game thinking. That is, it rewards the people who use out-of-game knowledge to "break" the in-game situations because that often is allowed to bypass the normal rules. Polymorph Any Object into a piece of the sun (for example).
* It's horribly un-fun for those who don't find optimization intrinsically rewarding. Some do, and that's fine. Some (like me) don't. And being faced with a choice to either do lots of work or be irrelevant is annoying.
* It breaks implicit setting restrictions, exacerbating setting/mechanic dissonance. Each setting has an implicit optimization level. If the published NPCs aren't using a certain trick, it's probably a good sign that the designers of that setting never took that trick into consideration and that by doing so you'll end up causing dissonance. Yes, it would be better if these were explicit in the mechanics, but that's really hard once you get beyond a certain level of complexity/certain number of interacting mechanical bits.

Mutazoia
2017-11-30, 07:43 AM
Edit: If it wasn't clear, I'm agreeing with you and springboarding off of the middle two sentences.

A common failure state of the "I'm the most powerful" style of play is the "optimization" arms race--one side escalates (often due to competitive feelings between DM and player), the other side counter-escalates to survive, and then the only survival strategy is to optimize. And that has several bad effects--

* At least in D&D it turns into rocket tag, as you've described. The first one to go wins. When the average combat-focused character can do multiples of the average HP pool in a single round, there's no chance for tactics beyond "kill them first."
* It exacerbates any underlying balance issues that may exist. If one character has a high optimization floor and a low ceiling (small variance) and another has a low floor and a high ceiling (large variance), it's easy to break past the first character's ceiling, leaving him or her useless (and probably dead or worse, ignored).
* It rewards lateral meta-game thinking. That is, it rewards the people who use out-of-game knowledge to "break" the in-game situations because that often is allowed to bypass the normal rules. Polymorph Any Object into a piece of the sun (for example).
* It's horribly un-fun for those who don't find optimization intrinsically rewarding. Some do, and that's fine. Some (like me) don't. And being faced with a choice to either do lots of work or be irrelevant is annoying.
* It breaks implicit setting restrictions, exacerbating setting/mechanic dissonance. Each setting has an implicit optimization level. If the published NPCs aren't using a certain trick, it's probably a good sign that the designers of that setting never took that trick into consideration and that by doing so you'll end up causing dissonance. Yes, it would be better if these were explicit in the mechanics, but that's really hard once you get beyond a certain level of complexity/certain number of interacting mechanical bits.

And when you have a system like 3.X, where there a million splats, each with dozens of new classes, PRC's, feats, etc., that were never really designed to balance with each other, let alone the core stuff....

PhoenixPhyre
2017-11-30, 07:52 AM
And when you have a system like 3.X, where there a million splats, each with dozens of new classes, PRC's, feats, etc., that were never really designed to balance with each other, let alone the core stuff....

Exactly. The default was never intended to be "any splat, anywhere is fair game and you can ignore the fluff." As a trivial example, using a FR sourcebook in Eberron is probably not fair game. Or vice versa. This is worst when it comes to spells--classes like clerics get an inherent power boost when a new book containing spells is published, no matter whether they'd know about those spells or not. Feats aren't nearly so bad because they generally can't be switched out easily like spells, so they're restricted to new characters.

As a side note, I hate the conceptual model of the optimized level-up process--characters in-universe shouldn't know of the existence of all of these feats/spells/PrCs automatically. It's not as if they get a UI that pops up allowing them to choose between all the options. It's this way for player convenience, but characters should be more guided. Especially NPCs.

I don't know what could be done about it, but certainly your frost-loving cryomancer in a far-north arctic campaign shouldn't be cherry-picking spells from Sandstorm (as a random example). It's why I like the concept (but not necessarily the implementation) of having a choice of narrow thematic spell lists. Each class would get to pick two or so of a small subset of the many many overlapping lists. Your wizard might be a pyromantic summoner (for example)--if so, he'd miss out on some of the mind-control or cold-based spells. Or something like that.

wumpus
2017-11-30, 11:42 AM
The question of whether every optimizer is also a min-maxer is just an amusing tangent.

I suspect it depends on the definition of "min-maxing". Literally taking every stat/skill/whatever to either the maximum you can get or the minimum (or maximum penalty) would be one possible definition (considering the words used, it is the easiest to argue).

When you begin to define 'focusing on your strengths' and 'letting other players cover other roles' as min-maxing things get silly. Unless you regularly split the party, the whole idea is to build a player that excels within the party structure. Obviously you need to maintain a functional party even if one (or more) party members are incapacitated, but the primary goal of optimization should be to add skills to the party.

A reasonable set of characters might want to have the "party face" interact whenever possible, but each member should at least be able to interact with merchants and buy gear (note that in OOTS I'd expect V and Haley to "be on the town together" (especially before Elan), with Haley the haggling. But V could at least expect to buy most of the needed items, if at a higher price.

The Stormwind fallacy was mentioned and I thought I should at least point out that it may well be system/interpretation dependent. In a system where skills are simply inborn or automatically granted with experience than weird builds may be looked at as "less interesting" characters, but could be also seen as a roleplaying challenge. In systems/interpretations (basically 3.x with in-world level advancement, where weird builds and training mix) it becomes harder and harder to justify a build. Personally, I'd blame the game in this case, especially after dealing with something like the broken character system of Elder Scrolls 4: Oblvion (there is *no* *way* to justify nearly any of what a character has to do to be remotely capable of finishing the main quest).

I've never understood why Oblivion shipped the way it did, but now that I think of it there might have been a motivation to prove that Stormwind isn't a fallacy at all (given a game where optimization and roleplaying really don't mix) [not serious, especially considering it sold on consoles in unmoddable form].

JAL_1138
2017-11-30, 01:11 PM
Games with bonkers or swingy skill systems really illustrate that maximizing success chance isn't the enemy of roleplaying. It's hard to roleplay a character who's intended to be good at something if they're not, in fact, any good at it consistently. Trying to play a charismatic smooth-talker? Good luck if you can't somewhat-reliably hit the necessary DCs to ever persuade anyone about anything. If you need to crunch some numbers and plan out the feats you need in order to do that, it doesn't mean you're somehow "roll-playing, not roleplaying." The same applies to combat ability. And it isn't a system-specific concept.

Trying to play a tough-as-nails gunslinger in Deadlands? Good luck if you need to roll exploding dice to stand a vague chance of actually shooting an opponent and both a) hitting and b) harming them, especially if they're a Wild Card and not an Extra. You've got to optimize your Shooting skill to some extent to make the character actually viable.

Optimizing isn't necessarily about trying to "win the game" by building Pun-Pun. There's a difference between optimizing and outright munchkinry or TO shenanigans never meant to see actual play. It can be about trying to make a particular concept function well within the system's rules. If your character is meant to be a skilled martial-artist, and one option is nigh-unworkably mechanically weak/weird (3.5 monk) whereas another is fairly competent (3.5 unarmed swordsage), how is it "roll-playing, not roleplaying" to pick the one that actually works?

Like anything, it can be taken to such extremes that it harms the game or the enjoyment of other players. That's even acknowledged in the original Stormwind post. The fallacy is just the notion that optimizing necessarily precludes roleplaying, and vice-versa. The fact that that is a fallacy doesn't mean that massive imbalance can't be detrimental to the game.

PhoenixPhyre
2017-11-30, 01:20 PM
Games with bonkers or swingy skill systems really illustrate that maximizing success chance isn't the enemy of roleplaying. It's hard to roleplay a character who's intended to be good at something if they're not, in fact, any good at it consistently. Trying to play a charismatic smooth-talker? Good luck if you can't somewhat-reliably hit the necessary DCs to ever persuade anyone about anything. If you need to crunch some numbers and plan out the feats you need in order to do that, it doesn't mean you're somehow "roll-playing, not roleplaying." The same applies to combat ability. And it isn't a system-specific concept.

Trying to play a tough-as-nails gunslinger in Deadlands? Good luck if you need to roll exploding dice to stand a vague chance of actually shooting an opponent and both a) hitting and b) harming them, especially if they're a Wild Card and not an Extra. You've got to optimize your Shooting skill to some extent to make the character actually viable.

Optimizing isn't necessarily about trying to "win the game" by building Pun-Pun. There's a difference between optimizing and outright munchkinry or TO shenanigans never meant to see actual play. It can be about trying to make a particular concept function well within the system's rules. If your character is meant to be a skilled martial-artist, and one option is nigh-unworkably mechanically weak/weird (3.5 monk) whereas another is fairly competent (3.5 unarmed swordsage), how is it "roll-playing, not roleplaying" to pick the one that actually works?

Like anything, it can be taken to such extremes that it harms the game or the enjoyment of other players. That's even acknowledged in the original Stormwind post. The fallacy is just the notion that optimizing necessarily precludes roleplaying, and vice-versa. The fact that that is a fallacy doesn't mean that massive imbalance can't be detrimental to the game.

Ideally, a good system should put the floor somewhere around "competent" for the main tool of each archetype. You should have to try to go lower than this (make a gunslinger who's actively bad at shooting). Picking "what looks good/makes sense" for an archetype should result in normal outcomes. Not great, not bad. Tolerable.

I am of the opinion that it's important to avoid both kinds of accidental broken-ness--it should be hard to make a strongly sub-par character and hard to make one that overshadows others. It certainly shouldn't be doable by accident. To take a 3.5 example, two new players roll up characters. One picks a monk because he wants to do unarmed combat and chooses things that seem to help with that (improved unarmed strike, dodge, etc). Oops, he's made a brokenly-bad character. By doing all the right things. The other picks a druid, because he likes animals and the concept of shape-changing. He picks the things that look good and make him a better angry bear. Uh-oh, he's made a pretty darn good character--broken-good in many games. By accident. Neither intended to do so, but both did. That's a problem in my book.

JAL_1138
2017-11-30, 01:42 PM
Ideally, a good system should put the floor somewhere around "competent" for the main tool of each archetype. You should have to try to go lower than this (make a gunslinger who's actively bad at shooting). Picking "what looks good/makes sense" for an archetype should result in normal outcomes. Not great, not bad. Tolerable.

I am of the opinion that it's important to avoid both kinds of accidental broken-ness--it should be hard to make a strongly sub-par character and hard to make one that overshadows others. It certainly shouldn't be doable by accident. To take a 3.5 example, two new players roll up characters. One picks a monk because he wants to do unarmed combat and chooses things that seem to help with that (improved unarmed strike, dodge, etc). Oops, he's made a brokenly-bad character. By doing all the right things. The other picks a druid, because he likes animals and the concept of shape-changing. He picks the things that look good and make him a better angry bear. Uh-oh, he's made a pretty darn good character--broken-good in many games. By accident. Neither intended to do so, but both did. That's a problem in my book.

Agreed with the second paragraph, very much. I'm not sure that I'd say just "tolerable" is a point to shoot for for the default, though.

If the scale is something like "horrible—bad—tolerable—good—great," I'd say that "good" should be what "what looks good/makes sense for an archetype" should end up at, at the least. The straightforward archetype is archetypal for a reason, and the natural, intuitive choices should actually be good. "Tolerable" is more of a floor for somewhat-unorthodox-but-not-ludicrous options or jacks-of-all-trades IMO.

I'm also generally of the opinion that options amounting to "character so powerful it makes it extremely difficult for the DM to design a reasonably-challenging scenario without resorting to specific countermeasures relying on advanced rules knowledge or outright fiat" and "so incompetent as to be effectively unplayable" should be avoided in design and the default rules even if they pretty much can't be stumbled onto accidentally.

PhoenixPhyre
2017-11-30, 02:01 PM
Agreed with the second paragraph, very much. I'm not sure that I'd say just "tolerable" is a point to shoot for for the default, though.

If the scale is something like "horrible—bad—tolerable—good—great," I'd say that "good" should be what "what looks good/makes sense for an archetype" should end up at, at the least. The straightforward archetype is archetypal for a reason, and the natural, intuitive choices should actually be good. "Tolerable" is more of a floor for somewhat-unorthodox-but-not-ludicrous options or jacks-of-all-trades IMO.

I'm also generally of the opinion that options amounting to "character so powerful it makes it extremely difficult for the DM to design a reasonably-challenging scenario without resorting to specific countermeasures relying on advanced rules knowledge or outright fiat" and "so incompetent as to be effectively unplayable" should be avoided in design and the default rules even if they pretty much can't be stumbled onto accidentally.

I agree with both points and wasn't as clear as I should have been.

My default is that "what looks good" should be (on a scale of 1 (bad) to 10 (great!)) about 5-7 for the main area of the archetype. A weak part of the archetype (ranged on heavy-armor SnB fighter, for example) might be 3-4.

More spread-out jack-of-all-trades archetypes might have 5s in several categories with no 6-7 ratings. But no class should have less than about a 3 or more than about a 7 without serious work. With optimization you might get to 8 or 9. None of which should require the DM to design scenarios with your special snowflake in mind in either direction--keeping you useful or keeping you from trivializing things.

Quertus
2017-12-01, 12:24 AM
Senile OP is back, with random comments.


Yeah, this is why there was some confusion about whther the discussion was about mechanical balance between classes or balanced parties.
Wheer or not a fighter is balanced against a wizard is a very different conversation than whether a group of four fighters is a viable option.

... Both?

Ostensibly, the topic is, "game balance was a solved problem - WTF happened?" Or, as Captain Reynolds would say, "why are we still discussing this?"

To my mind, balance both used to be handled and IMO is best handled as a conversation - "dude, somethings not right, and here's my thoughts on the matter".

Yes, when you're in a big competitive tournament with a million dollars and the fate of the world on the line, you field the most broken OP thing you can ("mewtew uses psychic" or whatever), and that's just expected - good form even. Unlike me, most people are there to win.

But when you're playing a more casual game - let alone a cooperative one like most RPGs - such behavior is just being a ****, and something you should get called out for. "Dude, stop spawn-killing the noobs".


I rarely use published modules and when I do I adapt it to what I'm running. So if there are 4 fighters it doesnt matter at all. I think there is no way to use published modules to benchmark game balance


Modules could be used as an external metric of party balance against the expectations of the module's designer(s).

IMHO that metric is far less interesting than the metric of internal party balance, because I'm much more interested in making a fun game for the players at my table than I am interested in the expectations of strangers, but technically the expectations of strangers could be used as some kind of benchmark... it's just one I don't care about.

Whatever you are running is "the module".

If your module is "escape the space ship before it crashes", and someone brings "I teleport everyone out. Done." then their character singlehandedly handled and trivialized the module, and is probably not appropriate for the module. If someone brings, "but... I am the ship", they make the module nigh-impossible, and are probably not appropriate to the module (if success is the only acceptable option, that is).

If everyone brings fast time aliens attempting to escape detection while simultaneously escaping the ship, that's fine. But if one person wants to run a normal time human in that group (you know, the expected crew compliment), that's still fine - unless someone has an issue with the group dynamic. That someone probably has good reason to be upset that the human gets out one syllable in the time that the aliens reinvent 50 different alien devices out of toothpicks and dental floss.

So, IMO & IME, you balance to the module, and to the group. Why is this not common practice?


Yeah, that is certainly a valid way to do it.

I used to tailor adventures to the party, but a while back we ran into a phenomenon my group dubbed "the cycle of stupidity" where we devolved into an optimization arms race where I would always try and challenge the players so they would in turn power game even harder.

Now I just make adventures that make sense in the world and let the players play whatever they want (within reason).


A group I was playing with encountered this problem when we were teenagers playing Cyberpunk 2020. Cyberpunk is the poster child of equipment porn with all the splatbooks giving more options of cyberwear, bioware, guns and armor. In the end you can tweak your guns, custom design your armor, get some of that sweet humanity back through therapy so you can stuff your body with more cyberwear. In the end our characters were Terminators with big effing guns and enough armor to withstand a HEAT round from a tank. It was about escalation, the referee had the bad guys show up with bigger guns to counter us, so we countered with bigger guns

I heard my cue to say, "never get in an arms race with your players, because they cannot win".

Have a conversation with your players, and ask them to build things at the module's level.

Mind you, that's a broad range, IMO. So long as everyone gets to contribute to a reasonable extent, and everyone is happy, anywhere between "the party has no chance to succeed" and "the party steamrolls every encounter" can be fine, if everyone is onboard with that. Personally, I prefer just about anywhere in between those two extremes.


I don't care about external balance either as it's meaningless, especially in point buy games where it has happened that not one character was combat focused. Internal balance doesn't matter that much if everybody is having fun. It only becomes a problem when someone has a problem with the balance. Most people don't care that much if everybody gets some time in the limelight.

That being said I still believe that game designers should strive for a semblance of balance.

I was with you until that last sentence.

Let's say you have the option of a game that allows you to play any 16 chess pieces you want, vs one with a very specific point value of pieces. Why would you want the latter, when it's obviously a subset of the former? That is, you can have any kind of fun with the former, but only a small subset of that with the latter. Why would that ever be a good design goal, to limit the types of fun the players can have?


Then again, I'm more used to nWoD, which is a little less overpowered.

One of my favorite rotes from oWoD was the semi auto CAD cam, a Matter 4-5 Correspondence 4-5 rote. That meant it took 8*(4+5+4+5+4) = 176 XP, at, what, around 3-4 XP per session? So, a year later, a dedicated character could pull it off. Or it could be a rote a beginning character in nWoD can use. :smallconfused:


Optimization wasn't a thing when VtM arrived on the RPG scene. Optimization is a fairly recent development, with the birth of the internet and forums such as this one.

And the whole "how we all fit together" bit...that's party balance.

Yeah, no. I can't attest for anything else historically, but I can say that Optimization has been a thing since I was sentient, and was applied to RPGs since the moment I first saw them.

That having been said, I'm a lot better at certain kinds of optimization since playing 3e D&D.


Lots, yes, starting with spotlight, teamwork, storytelling and development, the list goes on.

I look forward to hearing about these.


But mostly balance problems arise when an extremely competitive gamer uses the system to make the strongest character possible to beat all encounters and proceeds to take a dump over other peoples immersion.

Why should someone being competent make the world less believable? :smallconfused:


A common failure state of the "I'm the most powerful" style of play is the "optimization" arms race--one side escalates (often due to competitive feelings between DM and player), the other side counter-escalates to survive, and then the only survival strategy is to optimize. And that has several bad effects--

* It exacerbates any underlying balance issues that may exist. If one character has a high optimization floor and a low ceiling (small variance) and another has a low floor and a high ceiling (large variance), it's easy to break past the first character's ceiling, leaving him or her useless (and probably dead or worse, ignored).

I consider that bit a feature.

In Star Control, the Hierarchy was Power, and had a high floor, low ceiling. Whereas the Alliance was Finesse, and had a low floor, high ceiling.

I preferred the Hierarchy, as their ships were cooler. And, eventually, new players would gain skills, and learn how to defeat me.

I find that so much better than the noob option lording over everyone forever. (Mewtew uses psychic. It's very effective)

WarKitty
2017-12-01, 01:49 AM
But when you're playing a more casual game - let alone a cooperative one like most RPGs - such behavior is just being a ****, and something you should get called out for. "Dude, stop spawn-killing the noobs".

So, IMO & IME, you balance to the module, and to the group. Why is this not common practice?

I think a lot of the complaint is that building to this sort of balance is something that itself (depending on the system) takes a lot of skill. It's actually as I've become more adept with 3.5, that I'm actually able to to build a character to fit the power level I want to fit to. My first game, we just kind of built characters that filled classic fantasy niches and all looked roughly even, and the result was wildly imbalanced. That's been my experience - that a lot of balance problems tend to arise unintentionally, when players don't understand the system well enough to fix it.

RazorChain
2017-12-01, 02:05 AM
Whatever you are running is "the module".

If your module is "escape the space ship before it crashes", and someone brings "I teleport everyone out. Done." then their character singlehandedly handled and trivialized the module, and is probably not appropriate for the module. If someone brings, "but... I am the ship", they make the module nigh-impossible, and are probably not appropriate to the module (if success is the only acceptable option, that is).

If everyone brings fast time aliens attempting to escape detection while simultaneously escaping the ship, that's fine. But if one person wants to run a normal time human in that group (you know, the expected crew compliment), that's still fine - unless someone has an issue with the group dynamic. That someone probably has good reason to be upset that the human gets out one syllable in the time that the aliens reinvent 50 different alien devices out of toothpicks and dental floss.

So, IMO & IME, you balance to the module, and to the group. Why is this not common practice?

Some people like to play in sandboxes where nothing gets tailored to the party in a combat as war game. If there is an hostile orc tribe there with 100 warriors the GM doesn't tailor it according to party power. If the fat hobbit flubbs his stealth he can't run very fast from the orcs then he'll get eaten, the GM isn't going adjust their move speed to accomodate the hobbit.

That said most GM do plan and adjust according to the party power...else the games would be very short, very boring or the players are very clever.





I heard my cue to say, "never get in an arms race with your players, because they cannot win".

Have a conversation with your players, and ask them to build things at the module's level.

Mind you, that's a broad range, IMO. So long as everyone gets to contribute to a reasonable extent, and everyone is happy, anywhere between "the party has no chance to succeed" and "the party steamrolls every encounter" can be fine, if everyone is onboard with that. Personally, I prefer just about anywhere in between those two extremes.

That is the gist of it. Once you understand that leveling up or getting more points or toys is mostly just an arms race between the GM and the players it starts to matter less. Psychologically most players like to get rewards...everybody likes rewards but I just like them smaller because it suits the adventures and the campaign I run. My campaigns aren't about poor farmboys who become billionaire superheores but this is more about campaign balance than anything else. The more power the PC's gain the less relevant everything else becomes which means that the GM has to introduce new adversaries, npcs and places.




I was with you until that last sentence.

Let's say you have the option of a game that allows you to play any 16 chess pieces you want, vs one with a very specific point value of pieces. Why would you want the latter, when it's obviously a subset of the former? That is, you can have any kind of fun with the former, but only a small subset of that with the latter. Why would that ever be a good design goal, to limit the types of fun the players can have?

Not what I meant, what I meant about game designers should strive for balance is that if immortality costs 1 point and darkvision costs 150 points then something is wrong with game balance. If a mace does 3d8 in damage and a sword does 1d4 then something is wrong with the game balance. If one class gets mind control, teleportation, flying, scrying, summoning, invisibility, his own pocket dimension, wishes and the ability to throw an meteor on his foes and the other class just get the ability to hit harder then some might argue that something is wrong with game balance.




Why should someone being competent make the world less believable? :smallconfused:

It isn't but let's say that the party comprises of Batman, Nightwing and Batgirl and you show up with your character where you have used every rule in the book and all the exploits to make your character more powerful and show up with Superman. Then you would just make the others irrelevant as you clean up all crime in Gotham in a 15 minute adventuring day. That wasn't what the other players signed up for, they wanted to take down the Penguin, the Riddler and the Joker but you singelhandedly with your minmaxed munchkin character just threw them all into the sun. When the other players get pissed then you just shrug and say "well my character has a weakness, the bad guys should just have stocked up on cryptonite which incidentally doesn't exist in our solar system"

Darth Ultron
2017-12-01, 07:39 AM
So, IMO & IME, you balance to the module, and to the group. Why is this not common practice?

A lot of GM's have gotten weak, spineless and casual. You got the flood of the GM must be nice, is just a player and as a player must do what the other players want..always. And sure, such GM's have always existed...but after 3X they really moved into the spot light.

To any Classic GM, the ones who are not players, it is very obvious what to do and how to do things. And few such GM's have the sort of problems you see in modern games. Like the player wants to have a teleport guy on a sinking ship? GM just says ''no''.




Yeah, no. I can't attest for anything else historically, but I can say that Optimization has been a thing since I was sentient, and was applied to RPGs since the moment I first saw them.


Agreed it has always been around, what has changed is the Way people play the game.

It is bad enough that the vast majority of optimizers think they ''must'' optimize to have fun...and it is worse when you here the crazy whine of how they can't role play unless their character is all powerful mechanically.

And things just get piled on from there: Optimizers feel ''targeted and attacked'' if anything happens to their character. Optimizers feel cheated when the whole game world does not work and flow the exact way they want it to. And so on.

And on top of all that: you get the wacky player-gm's that agree with them.

Just take something simple: losing an item. An optimizer and their warcky-player GM will both say a characters super special needed items must never, ever be lost to the character as that would ruin the roll play usage of the character and prevent the player from ''playing the character they say they must play''.

Others would just say loss of a item is something that can and might happen...and if it does, just keep on gaming.

PhoenixPhyre
2017-12-01, 09:31 AM
I consider that bit a feature.

In Star Control, the Hierarchy was Power, and had a high floor, low ceiling. Whereas the Alliance was Finesse, and had a low floor, high ceiling.

I preferred the Hierarchy, as their ships were cooler. And, eventually, new players would gain skills, and learn how to defeat me.

I find that so much better than the noob option lording over everyone forever. (Mewtew uses psychic. It's very effective)

First, comparing a competitive game to a cooperative one is a bad idea. The ideas from one don't carry over well at all. First.5, Star Control is a fun game (SC2 was even better).

Second, if there's a large discrepancy in the optimization potential, and optimization is required (as it is once you're in an optimization arms race), you're strongly limiting the number of viable builds. That person who likes the idea of a fighter? He's useless. Only the "on-meta" builds are viable--the ones with an unrestricted (or very high) optimization ceiling.

Third, the current set-up is exactly that the noob option (follow this CODzilla guide) lords over everyone without requiring active thought, and the best players playing the harder-to-optimize builds can't even really come close without serious shenanigans. In fact, the optimization floor (pick what looks good) of most druids is higher than the "normal" (ie not PO/TO) ceiling for monks. And that's a serious, inherent problem.

All archetypes should be able to be successful at the same challenges. The difference should be in how they conquer the challenge, not what challenges they can attempt. Relying only on inter-player (group level) balancing will fail without some level of system balance. For example, a new player might stumble across a "broken" (in either direction) combo and not know enough to avoid it. At a table with experienced, helpful players, they can guide him out of that trap. At a table with new players, or unhelpful (competitive) players, bad things happen. If the default is competent (but not overwhelming), the differences in build skill are much less pronounced and new players can co-exist with all sorts of players and have fun.

"Git Gud" is a toxic attitude in a cooperative game. It's a large part of why the LoL/DoTA communities are so abhorrently toxic--you're relying on other players for a competitive environment and there's a strong attitude of "Git Gud oar Get Out" (spelling intentional), backed up by liberal use of profanity and immature shrieking.

JAL_1138
2017-12-01, 09:54 AM
For that matter, what you're describing, finesse vs raw strength, *is* a balance method—can't speak to Star Control, since I haven't played it (I'm a bad geek, I know), but still, in principle it can be. E.G., Rogues are speedy but fragile; fighters are tough and hit often for less damage per hit, but can take a lot of punishment. If finesse is still viable compared to raw strength assuming equal player skill, there's balance between the two. Both can function.

It's like comparing the slow bruiser who hits like a freight train to the agile, quick character who doesn't hit as hard but can hit faster in a fighting game. Put two players of equal skill against each other using those options and it's a 50/50 chance for either, if the balance is good.

If it's not balanced, putting two players of equal skill against each other using those options, and one will win, or at least win a statistically-significant number of times more often. Maybe the speedster is *too* fragile, or the bruiser *too* slow, to be viable, or maybe the speedster does less damage per hit but still enough damage that their increased attack speed lets them just steamroll any other opponent. That's bad design, not "increasing options."

It gets exacerbated when players of unequal skill go against each other, and even worse when the disparity isn't clear until later or with extensive system mastery.

CharonsHelper
2017-12-01, 10:09 AM
It's like comparing the slow bruiser who hits like a freight train to the agile, quick character who doesn't hit as hard but can hit faster in a fighting game. Put two players of equal skill against each other using those options and it's a 50/50 chance for either, if the balance is good.


The extremes don't necessarily have to match up. In a lot of such systems, you want to be somewhat more X than your foe.

Foe example, maybe if your foe is only a bit more agile and you're beefier, you can still hit them consistently but since you hit harder you win. But if they're much more agile, you can never hit them so it doesn't matter how beefy you are.

So - you would generally want to be either slightly beefier or much more agile than your foe.

(Not really the same - but most wargames' mechanics give the edge to being either slightly more elite or much more numerous than the enemy army. I doubt that it's intentional - that's just the way the mechanics play out.)

JAL_1138
2017-12-01, 10:35 AM
So long as both options are viable/functional. If one just wins, to the point that the other isn't even a consideration in high-skilled play, there's a problem.

Balance doesn't need to be perfect, and I don't think anyone's suggesting so on the "system balance is a good thing" side. If Class A is slightly better than Class B, with some optimization, but Class B works both in terms of ability to overcome challenges and in terms of not being obsoleted by Class A, there's no problem.

Let me pose another question to Quertus—since you've asked why balance is good and you favor the "option" to have wildly different power scales in the same game (to my understanding)...why is that a good thing? Why is it bad for a game to focus in on doing certain things well? Would trying to represent Exalted Solar power levels (i.e., you're a god in the common-usage definition, even if the setting lore is that "gods" are weaker than Solars), Scion power levels (i.e., you're a demigod, but definitely not a full-fledged deity), B/X D&D power levels (i.e., sword-and-sorcery classic), and Call of Cthulhu power levels (e.g., you're squishy and will probably go insane and die) in the same game be a good idea, or could it be a better idea to separate those power scales into different games that can model them more effectively with a degree of parity between characters? Why do it all in one system?

wumpus
2017-12-01, 11:19 AM
If your character is meant to be a skilled martial-artist, and one option is nigh-unworkably mechanically weak/weird (3.5 monk) whereas another is fairly competent (3.5 unarmed swordsage), how is it "roll-playing, not roleplaying" to pick the one that actually works?

The "roleplaying" question should simply be "is my character believable?" Are the actions needed to gain all those specific skills justified within the character?

There really isn't nothing stopping you from roleplaying a planar sheppard, pun-pun, or other broken class/build, but your roleplaying is will be made much more difficult due to complete lack of game-derived conflict.

Optimization damages the "game" part of the game (and of course any conflict that happens during the game gives opportunities for roleplaying), making a character either too strong or too weak compared to the rest of the party breaks the "tactical simulation" part of the game. The roleplaying difficulty is that such things often require "weird builds" that may be profoundly difficult to justify for a character (not to mention might not work well during the leveling process*). The flip side is that if there are "easy button" means to OPdom (such as the planar sheppard, I'm furiously ignoring pure Wizard or CoDzilla) you would expect far more NPCs taking such a route (of course if you are in a world such as Forgotten Realms, perhaps most of the NPCs *are* that powerful).

* Oddly enough, in the Dungeons & Dragons Online permadeath scene (probably long since dead thanks to DDO bugginess), weird builds were vastly more common there than in "standard" DDO (which of course is what the devs balanced the game around). Those "weird permadeath builds" *had* to be strong at every level (and moreso until raise dead was available, typically "permadeath" only meant "unless raised within standard D&D rules") where "standard builds" could simply power through poor levels and ignore deaths until the meat of the build (and then start raiding and whatnot). Note that DDO never had a roleplaying scene, it really doesn't work for that.

Max_Killjoy
2017-12-01, 11:20 AM
@ PhoenixPhyre -- can't find the post, not sure it was even in this thread now, but you said something about presenting challenges as what needs to get done, and character abilities as how things get done, but not linking the two. Thinking about it, that might be one of the gaps in these discussions -- I think some gamers look at challenges and character abilities as directly and inherently linked, such that at least one character in the party must have X ability at >= R potency to solve problem A; whereas others (including me) view the two as discrete and separate, with the players responsible for creatively using character abilities to solve the challenges they face.

WarKitty
2017-12-01, 11:35 AM
@PhoenixPhyre -- can't find the post, not sure it was even in this thread now, but you said something about presenting challenges as what needs to get done, and character abilities as how things get done, but not linking the two. Thinking about it, that might be one of the gaps in these discussions -- I think some gamers look at challenges and character abilities as directly and inherently linked, such that at least one character in the party must have X ability at >= R potency to solve problem A; whereas others (including me) view the two as discrete and the separate with the players responsible for creatively using character abilities to solve the challenges they face.

I think this also depends on the system. Like in 3.5, there are certain spells that can only be countered by other spells. If the system is built such that "The counter to X ability is Y ability and nothing else," then you need Y ability.

PhoenixPhyre
2017-12-01, 11:35 AM
@PhoenixPhyre -- can't find the post, not sure it was even in this thread now, but you said something about presenting challenges as what needs to get done, and character abilities as how things get done, but not linking the two. Thinking about it, that might be one of the gaps in these discussions -- I think some gamers look at challenges and character abilities as directly and inherently linked, such that at least one character in the party must have X ability at >= R potency to solve problem A; whereas others (including me) view the two as discrete and the separate with the players responsible for creatively using character abilities to solve the challenges they face.

I've said that in both of the current "balance" related threads. I agree that there is a disjunction here. I personally believe that challenges should be built (and powers should be built) so that any rational combination is doable. More "unusual" combinations might require significant cleverness, but I'm a huge opponent of "you must have plot ticket ability X" ("You must be this tall to ride") design.

I've seen it in MMOs (usually older ones)--it strongly restricts the number of possibilities and increases friction between "good" players and "bad" players--the "good" ones know the appropriate builds and rage at the "bad" ones for playing some wacky build (like a Vanilla WoW paladin that wasn't a buff-bot), the "bad" ones complain that the "good" ones are elitist and are "un-fun." Both are wrong, but the system that incentivizes this is even wronger. They've moved strongly away from this in most modern MMOs--you can get by with any combination of the appropriate range of healers, tanks and DPS. People complain that it waters down the game (makes all of them too similar), but I'm a big fan of that style.

Basically, the group/module/DM sets what challenges are encountered; players use their character to decide how they tackle those challenges. Any reasonable combination (so a bunch of pacifists in an all-combat module don't count) should work. Essential tactical abilities (condition removal, movement, damage, survivability, etc) should be spread out among the possible archetypes so that you have to work to not have one available when needed.

Quertus
2017-12-01, 06:23 PM
I think a lot of the complaint is that building to this sort of balance is something that itself (depending on the system) takes a lot of skill. It's actually as I've become more adept with 3.5, that I'm actually able to to build a character to fit the power level I want to fit to. My first game, we just kind of built characters that filled classic fantasy niches and all looked roughly even, and the result was wildly imbalanced. That's been my experience - that a lot of balance problems tend to arise unintentionally, when players don't understand the system well enough to fix it.

Well... You're not wrong. My experience and contention include the possibility of the entire group being utterly clueless, but using trial and error to have a players eventually create a group of character that fit.


Some people like to play in sandboxes where nothing gets tailored to the party in a combat as war game. If there is an hostile orc tribe there with 100 warriors the GM doesn't tailor it according to party power. If the fat hobbit flubbs his stealth he can't run very fast from the orcs then he'll get eaten, the GM isn't going adjust their move speed to accomodate the hobbit.

That said most GM do plan and adjust according to the party power...else the games would be very short, very boring or the players are very clever.

Back in my day, not attacking 100 orcs head-on with a group of non-coms, or having an exit strategy for when your overweight hobbit fails a stealth check, was considered a very low bar for competence.

Hmmm... This may be related to part of the problem, actually. If people want to be so unfathomably lazy as to just pick anything and expect it to automatically just work... Well, to me, that's crazy talk. Of course you can't bring your 20' combat monster to a tea party. Of course you can't play a 2e D&D Barbarian in a party of wizards. Of course I can't bring Armus in a high-power superhero game.

Why would anyone expect any character to just work in any game? :smallconfused:


That is the gist of it. Once you understand that leveling up or getting more points or toys is mostly just an arms race between the GM and the players it starts to matter less. Psychologically most players like to get rewards...everybody likes rewards but I just like them smaller because it suits the adventures and the campaign I run. My campaigns aren't about poor farmboys who become billionaire superheores but this is more about campaign balance than anything else. The more power the PC's gain the less relevant everything else becomes which means that the GM has to introduce new adversaries, npcs and places.

Um... I'm not the type to agree to disagree, but I think we have different goals / perspectives here. Scaling numbers is just an arms race. New capabilities / toys, however, are new stories you can tell. And, even better, they're versatility - that thing people constantly complain that muggles lack in 3e D&D.

I can't see many people complaining about giving 3e D&D muggles more toys just being an arms race against the GM.


It isn't but let's say that the party comprises of Batman, Nightwing and Batgirl and you show up with your character where you have used every rule in the book and all the exploits to make your character more powerful and show up with Superman. Then you would just make the others irrelevant as you clean up all crime in Gotham in a 15 minute adventuring day. That wasn't what the other players signed up for, they wanted to take down the Penguin, the Riddler and the Joker but you singelhandedly with your minmaxed munchkin character just threw them all into the sun. When the other players get pissed then you just shrug and say "well my character has a weakness, the bad guys should just have stocked up on cryptonite which incidentally doesn't exist in our solar system"

Let's alter these assumptions slightly.

Let's say those are all characters straight out of the book, no exploits or book diving - or even character creation - necessary.

Different characters work for different styles of game. If the style of game was "Gotham villains", one of these characters does not match the module.


Just take something simple: losing an item.

Losing an item is not something simple, at least not in 3e D&D. Having items is part of the expectation & basis of game balance.


First, comparing a competitive game to a cooperative one is a bad idea. The ideas from one don't carry over well at all. First.5, Star Control is a fun game (SC2 was even better).

That's fair, on both counts. :smallbiggrin:


Second, if there's a large discrepancy in the optimization potential, and optimization is required (as it is once you're in an optimization arms race),

If you're in an arms race, just like if someone's character doesn't match the module, it's time to have a little talk.


you're strongly limiting the number of viable builds.

Having a game where you care about balance limits the number of viable builds. Pretty definitionally true, no matter the balance level of the game.


That person who likes the idea of a fighter? He's useless.

That's the common opinion. If it's true, he'll fit right in with my signature wizard, though. :smallbiggrin:


Only the "on-meta" builds are viable--the ones with an unrestricted (or very high) optimization ceiling.

Again, true at any level of optimization, if you are playing a game that cares about balance.


Third, the current set-up is exactly that the noob option (follow this CODzilla guide) lords over everyone without requiring active thought,

And this is (not) why I don't publish my builds.

But, snark aside, this is an interesting point. Is the internet giving noobs access to powerful builds the reason people don't just say, "that character doesn't fit the game, noob"? If so, I can't quite make that logic leap yet.


and the best players playing the harder-to-optimize builds can't even really come close without serious shenanigans. In fact, the optimization floor (pick what looks good) of most druids is higher than the "normal" (ie not PO/TO) ceiling for monks. And that's a serious, inherent problem.

All archetypes should be able to be successful at the same challenges. The difference should be in how they conquer the challenge, not what challenges they can attempt. Relying only on inter-player (group level) balancing will fail without some level of system balance. For example, a new player might stumble across a "broken" (in either direction) combo and not know enough to avoid it. At a table with experienced, helpful players, they can guide him out of that trap. At a table with new players, or unhelpful (competitive) players, bad things happen. If the default is competent (but not overwhelming), the differences in build skill are much less pronounced and new players can co-exist with all sorts of players and have fun.

"Git Gud" is a toxic attitude in a cooperative game. It's a large part of why the LoL/DoTA communities are so abhorrently toxic--you're relying on other players for a competitive environment and there's a strong attitude of "Git Gud oar Get Out" (spelling intentional), backed up by liberal use of profanity and immature shrieking.

This will need it's own post to address, I believe.


For that matter, what you're describing, finesse vs raw strength, *is* a balance method—can't speak to Star Control, since I haven't played it (I'm a bad geek, I know), but still, in principle it can be. E.G., Rogues are speedy but fragile; fighters are tough and hit often for less damage per hit, but can take a lot of punishment. If finesse is still viable compared to raw strength assuming equal player skill, there's balance between the two. Both can function.

It's like comparing the slow bruiser who hits like a freight train to the agile, quick character who doesn't hit as hard but can hit faster in a fighting game. Put two players of equal skill against each other using those options and it's a 50/50 chance for either, if the balance is good.

If it's not balanced, putting two players of equal skill against each other using those options, and one will win, or at least win a statistically-significant number of times more often. Maybe the speedster is *too* fragile, or the bruiser *too* slow, to be viable, or maybe the speedster does less damage per hit but still enough damage that their increased attack speed lets them just steamroll any other opponent. That's bad design, not "increasing options."

It gets exacerbated when players of unequal skill go against each other, and even worse when the disparity isn't clear until later or with extensive system mastery.

I hate such obfuscation. No argument there.

In SC, the floor / ceiling was not initially obvious to anyone I played with. I figured it out pretty quickly, but stuck with the side I liked (the bad guys, go figure), because that's what I liked playing, despite it being a losing proposition. Because fun trumps victory in my book.

Who would win with players of equal skill depends on the skill level of the players. At low level, the Hierarchy won. All high level, the Alliance won.


Let me pose another question to Quertus—since you've asked why balance is good and you favor the "option" to have wildly different power scales in the same game (to my understanding)...why is that a good thing? Why is it bad for a game to focus in on doing certain things well? Would trying to represent Exalted Solar power levels (i.e., you're a god in the common-usage definition, even if the setting lore is that "gods" are weaker than Solars), Scion power levels (i.e., you're a demigod, but definitely not a full-fledged deity), B/X D&D power levels (i.e., sword-and-sorcery classic), and Call of Cthulhu power levels (e.g., you're squishy and will probably go insane and die) in the same game be a good idea, or could it be a better idea to separate those power scales into different games that can model them more effectively with a degree of parity between characters? Why do it all in one system?

An excellent question. Thank you for the challenge.

First off, you're just assuming that you cannot model those power scales equally effectively in the same system, and I reject that assumption. That is, while that may be provably true, I reject just accepting that as a given.

For the sake of clarity, let's assume for the moment that all these concepts are all well modeled. Why would you want them in the same system? Well, that's easy: what if you don't want to play demigods - what if you want to play a game of one mortal and a group of demigods?

For another reason to appreciate a broader range of power, I need only look to my character Armus. I used superior player skills to take an unoptimized commoner (or equivalent) to often accomplish more than the "demigods" he adventured with. Having that range of power levels was a great handicap to let me finally play all-out without unbalancing the game.

EDIT: yet another reason is because some players are reluctant to learn new systems. If you can play at all these levels in the same system, that's a win in my book.


The "roleplaying" question should simply be "is my character believable?" Are the actions needed to gain all those specific skills justified within the character?

There really isn't nothing stopping you from roleplaying a planar sheppard, pun-pun, or other broken class/build, but your roleplaying is will be made much more difficult due to complete lack of game-derived conflict.

Optimization damages the "game" part of the game (and of course any conflict that happens during the game gives opportunities for roleplaying), making a character either too strong or too weak compared to the rest of the party breaks the "tactical simulation" part of the game. The roleplaying difficulty is that such things often require "weird builds" that may be profoundly difficult to justify for a character (not to mention might not work well during the leveling process*). The flip side is that if there are "easy button" means to OPdom (such as the planar sheppard, I'm furiously ignoring pure Wizard or CoDzilla) you would expect far more NPCs taking such a route (of course if you are in a world such as Forgotten Realms, perhaps most of the NPCs *are* that powerful).

* Oddly enough, in the Dungeons & Dragons Online permadeath scene (probably long since dead thanks to DDO bugginess), weird builds were vastly more common there than in "standard" DDO (which of course is what the devs balanced the game around). Those "weird permadeath builds" *had* to be strong at every level (and moreso until raise dead was available, typically "permadeath" only meant "unless raised within standard D&D rules") where "standard builds" could simply power through poor levels and ignore deaths until the meat of the build (and then start raiding and whatnot). Note that DDO never had a roleplaying scene, it really doesn't work for that.

... Ok, I agree about characters being believable, with the caveat that different people have different ideas about what is believable. And I agree that you can roleplay anything.

Where I disagree is in regards to the necessity of challenge to roleplay. I once spent a season where the players just roleplayed having their characters chat while around the campfire.


@ PhoenixPhyre -- can't find the post, not sure it was even in this thread now, but you said something about presenting challenges as what needs to get done, and character abilities as how things get done, but not linking the two. Thinking about it, that might be one of the gaps in these discussions -- I think some gamers look at challenges and character abilities as directly and inherently linked, such that at least one character in the party must have X ability at >= R potency to solve problem A; whereas others (including me) view the two as discrete and separate, with the players responsible for creatively using character abilities to solve the challenges they face.


I've said that in both of the current "balance" related threads. I agree that there is a disjunction here. I personally believe that challenges should be built (and powers should be built) so that any rational combination is doable. More "unusual" combinations might require significant cleverness, but I'm a huge opponent of "you must have plot ticket ability X" ("You must be this tall to ride") design.

I've seen it in MMOs (usually older ones)--it strongly restricts the number of possibilities and increases friction between "good" players and "bad" players--the "good" ones know the appropriate builds and rage at the "bad" ones for playing some wacky build (like a Vanilla WoW paladin that wasn't a buff-bot), the "bad" ones complain that the "good" ones are elitist and are "un-fun." Both are wrong, but the system that incentivizes this is even wronger. They've moved strongly away from this in most modern MMOs--you can get by with any combination of the appropriate range of healers, tanks and DPS. People complain that it waters down the game (makes all of them too similar), but I'm a big fan of that style.

Basically, the group/module/DM sets what challenges are encountered; players use their character to decide how they tackle those challenges. Any reasonable combination (so a bunch of pacifists in an all-combat module don't count) should work. Essential tactical abilities (condition removal, movement, damage, survivability, etc) should be spread out among the possible archetypes so that you have to work to not have one available when needed.

Hmmm... This is, IMO, a matter of play style. I've been a proponent of both ends of the scale. I love the "how do we make a workable plan with this group of abilities" minigame. Yet, at the same time, I have advocated Tier 1 versatility as a good design goal (this got amended to QT1, as none of the existing tiers posses the exact level of power and versatility I was describing).

But guaranteeing everyone can solo every encounter? Even I didn't go that far. :smalleek:

WarKitty
2017-12-01, 07:53 PM
Well... You're not wrong. My experience and contention include the possibility of the entire group being utterly clueless, but using trial and error to have a players eventually create a group of character that fit.

My experience with a class-based system is that, unless people are willing to keep retiring and rebuilding characters, that trial and error may not happen well. Because there's no good fix for when two characters are unbalanced, especially once you also take into account what different people want out of the game.

Talakeal
2017-12-01, 10:08 PM
I think the root of a lot of these discussions is the idea that we need to have "one game system to rule them all."

All of this talk about different scenarios with drastically different power levels and expectations would, in my mind, be better served by simply using different game systems.

D&D is primarily a game about characters from levels 1-10 exploring dungeons and killing monsters for treasure. And it works great for that. I think all of the real issues with the system come about when trying to get it to do something it was never meant to do, and I think most people would be better served trying to find a game that is designed to do what they want rather than trying to stick a square peg in a round whole.

Of course, as it is near impossible to find players for anything that isn't D&D, I can sure see why they try.

RazorChain
2017-12-01, 11:57 PM
Well... You're not wrong. My experience and contention include the possibility of the entire group being utterly clueless, but using trial and error to have a players eventually create a group of character that fit.



Back in my day, not attacking 100 orcs head-on with a group of non-coms, or having an exit strategy for when your overweight hobbit fails a stealth check, was considered a very low bar for competence.

Hmmm... This may be related to part of the problem, actually. If people want to be so unfathomably lazy as to just pick anything and expect it to automatically just work... Well, to me, that's crazy talk. Of course you can't bring your 20' combat monster to a tea party. Of course you can't play a 2e D&D Barbarian in a party of wizards. Of course I can't bring Armus in a high-power superhero game.

Why would anyone expect any character to just work in any game? :smallconfused:

I play with engaged players most of the time and closer to combat as war than sport but combat is like 10% of our games. Some groups I've played with just wanted to kick down the door, kill the monsters and grab the loot and not think too much about it. Some players never read the rules and just ask the GM what is a good thing to choose so their barbarian can smash things harder when they level up. Some people just like to play Grog the barbarian that has no exit strategy and is expected to win all fights he partakes in, the GMs jobs is to assure him that his victories were hard won when they weren't. But then again some players just want to pick a class and want it to work.

Character growth in the group I'm playing with right now doesn't involve system mechanics, in fact half of them probably couldn't care what system we're playing as long as the system doesn't gets in the way. For me my players system mastery doesn't matter at all, those who don't care about the system know the basics, else they just ask me. "I want to sneak behind the guard with a garrotte and take him out quietly and preferably that he doesn't make too much sound" is enough explanation for me to tell them what they roll. Luckily I mostly run systems that play up to my players realistic expectations, I hate when systems block the flow of actions

The fat hobbit is the exit strategy. You don't have to outrun the monster, you just have to outrun the fat hobbit.




Um... I'm not the type to agree to disagree, but I think we have different goals / perspectives here. Scaling numbers is just an arms race. New capabilities / toys, however, are new stories you can tell. And, even better, they're versatility - that thing people constantly complain that muggles lack in 3e D&D.

I can't see many people complaining about giving 3e D&D muggles more toys just being an arms race against the GM.


Yes scaling numbers is an arms race, in many sci-fi settings or dystopian future settings bigger guns and armor don't bring anything new. Would it matter if Luke had put on armor and his upgraded his lightsaber to do extra damage? Not really, the GM would have just fielded Storm Troopers with repeating blasters and thermal detenators to even the odds.

I never run D&D and very seldom play it. In the systems I play the PC's most often start competent so a mage specializing in movement spells might have flight and teleport from the get go. A very large portion of systems doesn't give you any extra powers to play with as you "progress". In majority of games I play my characters don't get anything extra that is a game changer, maybe extra skills or manouvers. Nothing as drastic as now you can fly or turn invisible.

But you are right we seek different things from games, our styles would probably clash.



And, even better, they're versatility - that thing people constantly complain that muggles lack in 3e D&D.
I can't see many people complaining about giving 3e D&D muggles more toys just being an arms race against the GM.

This just warrants it's own answer, the psychology of D&D is for the lack of a better word about progress. While you chip down the bloated HP pool of the monster that's progress. You overcome obstacles to progress through the dugneon. You kill the endboss and that's progress, you grab the loot and that's progress. Clearing that dungeon is progress, levelingt up is progress, getting better items is progress. You are constantly climbing to the top of that mountain, getting better and more powerful. That is called being goal oriented, even the modules are like that, do A to progress to B to progress to C. You see in D&D failure isn't usually an option only progress.

Making everybody magical or giving everyone cool powers doesn't warrant a more interesting game it just changes the game into something else. I've never tried to hide the fact I consider the progression in D&D to be that of superhero game and I dont want my fantasy game to become a superhero game. In fact it seems that lot of people struggle with the progression from zero to superhero.





Let's alter these assumptions slightly.

Let's say those are all characters straight out of the book, no exploits or book diving - or even character creation - necessary.

Different characters work for different styles of game. If the style of game was "Gotham villains", one of these characters does not match the module.

True, Superman doesn't fit in. If he's a player character option in the book then something is wrong with balance. If he's meant to be played alongside Green Martian and Wonder Woman then the balance is mostly right. If the group decides to include Superman as a PC in Gotham villains then everyone knows what to expect. I believe it's the GMs job and up to the group to preserve whatever game balance they want to have and blind adherence to raw just ****s things up.

2D8HP
2017-12-02, 01:31 AM
.....Some players never read the rules and just ask the GM what is a good thing to choose....

.....some players just want to pick a class and want it to work....

...Character growth in the group I'm playing with right now doesn't involve system mechanics, in fact half of them probably couldn't care what system we're playing as long as the system doesn't gets in the way.....
I'm finding some insight here.

I had vastly more fun playing Shadowrun than I did Cyberpunk in the late1980's and early 1990's despite only using the "Cyberpunk" setting elements, none of the Fantasy elements of Shadowrun.

So the difference was the rules?

In a way.

I bought and studied the rules for Cyberpunk but not Shadowrun which I played "blind".

Not knowing the rules helps my immersion, and makes the game more fun for me.

Also I just don't find the "mechanical" character creation "mini-game" much fun, it is a means to get to the part where the GM asks "What do you do?", little more.


...I consider the progression in D&D to be that of superhero game and I dont want my fantasy game to become a superhero game. In fact it seems that lot of people struggle with the progression from zero to superhero...
"Leveling up" in D&D is fun....
...at first.

But I find it has diminishing returns, even more in (W)D&D than (T)D&D, and playing "high level" superpowered PC's is dull for me.

Getting to 2nd level is great!

Getting to 11th?

Meh.

Mechalich
2017-12-02, 03:12 AM
I think the root of a lot of these discussions is the idea that we need to have "one game system to rule them all."

All of this talk about different scenarios with drastically different power levels and expectations would, in my mind, be better served by simply using different game systems.

D&D is primarily a game about characters from levels 1-10 exploring dungeons and killing monsters for treasure. And it works great for that. I think all of the real issues with the system come about when trying to get it to do something it was never meant to do, and I think most people would be better served trying to find a game that is designed to do what they want rather than trying to stick a square peg in a round whole.

Of course, as it is near impossible to find players for anything that isn't D&D, I can sure see why they try.

Yes, it is generally much easier to maintain game balance when you keep your game within a smaller conceptual box. This is why video games - though they retain balance issues - have much better balance overall than TTRPGs, because the overall number of parameters is smaller. This doesn't always work - White Wolf was notorious for building games whose mechanical basis actively impeded trying to deliver the experience the fluff suggested to you - but it does help, and pretty much every system other than D&D that purports to offer a level of universality makes it clear that you're going to have to significantly modify the game mechanics in some way either by adding custom rules for the cool stuff in your setting (FATE) or by only using the modest percentage of the total rule set that actually applies t your game (GURPS).

Of course, the economics of gaming don't really reward this. For most games, the majority of players never buy anything beyond the core book. Heck, in the case of many games the average player may not own a book at all. Instead, the balance of the money is being spent by a small number of people - most of whom spend at least some time as GMs - who collect obsessively and buy books of full of material they will probably only ever use tiny bits off. Given that there's little to no cost to publishing huge quantities of material that simply isn't playable. For example, Paizo published Pathfinder's Bestiary 6 earlier this year at any asking price of $45. That book contains 21 monsters with CRs >25, most of whom have two page entries and who have no business whatsoever being monster entries. The game does not even come close to functioning at the level of fighting CR 30 Charon, but because people are willing to claim that it can they can publish a whole bunch of material for the non-viable power levels to pad out book lengths and thereby sell more books to GMs.

It's kind of weird. In online MMOs, the economic incentive is towards game balance - because the minute one class or build becomes too powerful all the competitive players (who are the ones who complain to the parent company and therefore matter) switch to that class and it ruins the gameplay. In tabletop, the incentive is against it, because keeping balance tight makes it much more difficult to churn out books to earn you money (perhaps the ultimate example is Rifts, which by utterly disregarding balance and frankly conceptual sanity spewed forth text at an almost unimaginable rate).

Nifft
2017-12-02, 03:51 AM
It's kind of weird. In online MMOs, the economic incentive is towards game balance - because the minute one class or build becomes too powerful all the competitive players (who are the ones who complain to the parent company and therefore matter) switch to that class and it ruins the gameplay. "Sloppy balance is punished because play is competitive."


In tabletop, the incentive is against it, because keeping balance tight makes it much more difficult to churn out books to earn you money (perhaps the ultimate example is Rifts, which by utterly disregarding balance and frankly conceptual sanity spewed forth text at an almost unimaginable rate). "Play is not competitive; sloppy balance is not punished."


Sloppiness shouldn't be rewarded anywhere. It's just not punished very hard in table-top design.

Darth Ultron
2017-12-02, 11:23 AM
Losing an item is not something simple, at least not in 3e D&D. Having items is part of the expectation & basis of game balance.


This falls on the Way the Game is Played.

Sure, Billy is a Optimizing Roll Player who must have his Special Weapon to do tons of damage and his ''expectation'' of play is him being an all powerful damage dealing character.

And worse, yes, in 3x and Pathfinder a lot of things are a trap. You build a character that is a one trick pony, then lose that one special item...and the character is useless.

Both the above are just playing one way. And yes, it is the popular way that Everyone plays...or at least everyone follows.

Florian
2017-12-02, 12:35 PM
This falls on the Way the Game is Played.

Sure, Billy is a Optimizing Roll Player who must have his Special Weapon to do tons of damage and his ''expectation'' of play is him being an all powerful damage dealing character.

And worse, yes, in 3x and Pathfinder a lot of things are a trap. You build a character that is a one trick pony, then lose that one special item...and the character is useless.

Both the above are just playing one way. And yes, it is the popular way that Everyone plays...or at least everyone follows.

That´s too harsh a judgement and a bit unfounded.

You´d do well to remember that "player empowerment" in AD&D 3rd (aka 3E) was introduced as a reaction to the vast majority of gms being either young, inexperienced or plain incompetent and unable to deal with the necessary judgement calls and rulings, so those got replaced by hard rules.

Part of those "hard rules" are also codified expectations on what level of to hit, damage, AC and such are considered to be acceptable performance.

Quertus
2017-12-02, 02:40 PM
My experience with a class-based system is that, unless people are willing to keep retiring and rebuilding characters, that trial and error may not happen well. Because there's no good fix for when two characters are unbalanced, especially once you also take into account what different people want out of the game.

It is very difficult to run the party of Mr Tibburs, the animated tea-dining stuffed bear that loves giving hugs, Gug, the uncouth illiterate ogre barbarian, and Raymond, the telepathic vampire merchant. Regardless of whether they were built in a class-based or point buy system. Ya gots ta set expectations, and talk it out.

Yes, when you have absolutely no skills to apply to the situation, it takes trial and error, and trying different things until something works. Yes, that generally means making new characters. Hopefully, people will be motivated to learn the appropriate skills. I'm a fan of player skills - skill at making the game run smoothly is no exception.


Some people just like to play Grog the barbarian that has no exit strategy and is expected to win all fights he partakes in, the GMs jobs is to assure him that his victories were hard won when they weren't.

I'm not the GM for them.


But then again some players just want to pick a class and want it to work.

Again, this is crazy talk. A homicidal vampire-slaying werewolf and a homicidal werewolf-slaying vampire don't "just work" as a party. Games take work. See my tales of the party of the Paladin, the Assassin, the Undead Hunter, the Undead Master... and my character.


The fat hobbit is the exit strategy. You don't have to outrun the monster, you just have to outrun the fat hobbit.

Fair enough. :smalltongue:


Would it matter if Luke had put on armor and his upgraded his lightsaber to do extra damage? Not really, the GM would have just fielded Storm Troopers with repeating blasters and thermal detenators to even the odds.

I disagree with this strategy. If Luke upgrades, the storm troopers should stay the same. Luke should either steam roll them, or fight more of them, or find new targets.


I never run D&D and very seldom play it. In the systems I play the PC's most often start competent so a mage specializing in movement spells might have flight and teleport from the get go. A very large portion of systems doesn't give you any extra powers to play with as you "progress". In majority of games I play my characters don't get anything extra that is a game changer, maybe extra skills or manouvers. Nothing as drastic as now you can fly or turn invisible.

But you are right we seek different things from games, our styles would probably clash.

So... the stories you can tell after years of play are the same as the stories you can play when you first create the characters? Doesn't that make the characters lose their replay value / have planned obsolescence? If they can tell story X from the get-go, why not tell story X?

In this scenario, the optimal path is to tell the best stories first, meaning everything after the first story is just a letdown. Certain Prestige classes, with their "my capstone power is...something you've already passed up several times" have demonstrated that this is a bad plan.

Why would you choose regression rather than progression for your games? :smallconfused:


This just warrants it's own answer, the psychology of D&D is for the lack of a better word about progress. While you chip down the bloated HP pool of the monster that's progress. You overcome obstacles to progress through the dugneon. You kill the endboss and that's progress, you grab the loot and that's progress. Clearing that dungeon is progress, levelingt up is progress, getting better items is progress. You are constantly climbing to the top of that mountain, getting better and more powerful. That is called being goal oriented, even the modules are like that, do A to progress to B to progress to C. You see in D&D failure isn't usually an option only progress.

I don't disagree. "usually winning" is usually nice. It isn't strictly required in D&D, though, as resurrection is a thing. Even without resurrection, the party winning doesn't necessitate a lack of casualties.

Armus' political maneuvers in D&D certainly weren't all successful. And the world feel into war. And blew up. So success, even in D&D, isn't strictly required.


Making everybody magical or giving everyone cool powers doesn't warrant a more interesting game it just changes the game into something else. I've never tried to hide the fact I consider the progression in D&D to be that of superhero game and I dont want my fantasy game to become a superhero game. In fact it seems that lot of people struggle with the progression from zero to superhero.

It doesn't have to be magical, or even powers. My Shadowrun character buying a yacht is an upgrade in capabilities, and expands the range of possible stories he can reasonably interact with.


True, Superman doesn't fit in. If he's a player character option in the book then something is wrong with balance.

That's biased. If bats and the big S are both valid characters, balance isn't assumed. There's nothing "wrong" with the balance, it just isn't inherent in the core of the game. You have to create it (if you care about it), just like you have to create every other part of the group.


If the group decides to include Superman as a PC in Gotham villains then everyone knows what to expect. I believe it's the GMs job and up to the group to preserve whatever game balance they want to have and blind adherence to raw just ****s things up.

There was a thread about defining what rules are inherent to the GM - while I agree that the GM usually fills this role, I put it on the group as a whole to "preserve game balance". Especial by slapping any GM that gets into an arms race with the PCs. And group is trump, even RAW is second to that. So... I aggressively agree?

2D8HP
2017-12-02, 02:59 PM
Is this much an issue for games beyond 3.x D&D?

In the 0e/1e D&D games I played Magic Users were weaker than Fighters until you got to rarely played levels, but that was known early.While in theory Magic-Users became the most powerful characters (it even suggested so in the rules:

1974 - Dungeons & Dragons Book 1: Men & Magic,
(Page 6)

"Magic-Users: Top level magic-users are perhaps the most powerful characters in the game, but it is a long hard road to the top, and to begin with they are very weak, so survival is often the question, unless fighters protect the low-level magical types until they have worked up."...)

IIRC, in practice Mages were so weak that no one I knew played them long. We only did it when we rolled badly or (briefly) wanted a challenge, so I never saw any Mages past second level that weren't NPC's at my usual tables.I can very much remember how in 70's early 80's it was hard to get anyone to play a "Magic User" (even when the Intelligence score roll was higher their Strength), simply because at low levels they had the least they could do (and the lowest hit points).
Most everyone played "Fighting-Men" to start, but those few who played for "the long game" found that "Magic Users" vastly overpowered other classes at high levels. Thematically and for "world building" it made sense, magicians should be rare, and "the great and powerful Wizard" should be more fearsome then the "mighty Warrior". But as a game? Having separate classes each doing their unique thing is more fun, and always hanging in the back while another PC does everything isn't.....anyway, it was such a long slog before a Magic User PC became less weak than the other classes that if they survived to become poweful it seemed like a just reward in old D&D.

Unlike D&D, in Stormbringer, on the other hand, you became a Sorcerer when you had really lucky rolls (high POW), which made the other PC's sidekicks, which for a player was LAME! But a low POW caster was almost useless if they weren't a viable "mundane", unlike a high POW sorcerer which was OP compared to other PC's, but this was the result of random character creation not a players choice of how to fit "the group power level.

In 4e Pendragon (the only edition with caster PC's), waiting for the "stars to be right" made being a caster too dull to play anyway.

In Traveller, a Player could keep killing off PC's during creation until they got a more powerful PC, but that was tedious, and the power (skills really) difference wasn't that much.

You could make different "builds" with Champions point buy system, but character creation was a long "mini-game" (like custom car builds in Car Wars), and it's comic book superheroes setting really wasn't to my taste so I don't have much experience with it.

In Call of Cthullu every PC was "squishy".

Ringworld like Stormbringer had potential vast differences due to random rolls, but those weren't a matter of choice.

5e D&D seems pretty balanced at low levels, and every class is too OP at high levels, which makes me want to start at 1st level again regardless.

What games besides 3.x D&D, and point buy GURPS and HERO is it even necessary to care about "group power level"?

@Quertus, I have no interest in the "build mini-game", nor in playing a superpowered "god wizard", I just want to role-play a Fafhrd, Gray Mouser, Robin Hood, or Sinbad-like "guy with sword", and having to even think of "group power level" sounds like a chore.

Other than having so many tables, why would I want to play 3.x D&D?

Darth Ultron
2017-12-02, 05:29 PM
You´d do well to remember that "player empowerment" in AD&D 3rd (aka 3E) was introduced as a reaction to the vast majority of gms being either young, inexperienced or plain incompetent and unable to deal with the necessary judgement calls and rulings, so those got replaced by hard rules.

Part of those "hard rules" are also codified expectations on what level of to hit, damage, AC and such are considered to be acceptable performance.

Odd, I don't remember that?

Nifft
2017-12-02, 05:42 PM
Is this much an issue for games beyond 3.x D&D?

In the 0e/1e D&D games I played Magic Users were weaker than Fighters until you got to rarely played levels, but that was known early.While in theory Magic-Users became the most powerful characters (it even suggested so in the rules: My experience with oD&D and 1e Magic-Users is that they were strategic assets, much like artillery.

A level 1 Magic-User had one spell, which was often sleep, and in those editions sleep was AMAZING.

You got a screaming horde of 20 goblins bearing down on you? Sleep, suddenly you've got none.

That was all the M-U did that day (aside from throwing a few darts) so the PC was a bit of a one-man emergency button, but it was a devastatingly effective button.


And yeah, it was tough to get a PC up to Name Level (~10 or so), even tougher to get a M-U that high, and it's not like the save-or-die rolls got less frequent afterwards.

3e changed that -- characters were able to survive better as they got to higher levels -- partly that was the game, partly the Internet.

I never saw a whole party of teen-level characters in an actual game of D&D until 3e.

Maybe my experience is atypical? But it's at least one datapoint.

2D8HP
2017-12-02, 06:25 PM
I never saw a whole party of teen-level characters in an actual game of D&D until 3e.

Maybe my experience is atypical? But it's at least one datapoint..
That was my experience as well.

I just prefer to play martials.

I want to play Captain Sinbad the hero,

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/M/[email protected]@._ V1_UY218_CR14,0,150,218_AL_.jpg

not the villainous Sokurah the Magician!

http://www.aveleyman.com/Gallery/ActorsT/17009-17024.gif

...so old D&D or 5e is a better fit for me.

Over and over people indicate that Wizards are more powerful in 3.x than in other versions of D&D:


Building on (and in agreement with) this, it's quite hard to update the game without the setting changing massivly due to NPC power as much as anything - for example, by 3.5 standards, 5e wizards aren't wizards, they're adepts on an ego trip. On that basis, it's not quite as easy to justify 3.5-style magocracies in a world where spellcasters really can be stopped by inserting pointy metal, nor is it possible to justify a fair few of the other facts of a setting which are artifacts of the way that 3.5 magic works (as an extreme example, if your campaign was set in the Tippyverse, you'd end up losing a lot of the setting's credibility because it's based on specific examples of what 3.5 wizards can do).

Many disliked how weak Magic Users were in TSR D&D:


What if fighter’s got tired from swinging their weapons?

Like a stamina bar?
That would help limit their Shenanigans with all this unlimited weapon swinging they do.

For my two cents as someone who started in this hobby with the red box set:

No, no, no.
We should not go back to the days of wizards who can be murdered by their familiars and throw darts at people all day long, because they only have two spells a day, that have complex and esoteric limitations that may or may not make them worthwhile.
So instead, you act as the cheering section for the fighter with his high AC and hit points as he mows through everything without breaking a sweat (or weapon for that matter).

While you whisper to yourself, just wait, just wait, one day I will be awesome.....

Phooey!
Let all PCs feel powerful and heroic. It’s why people choose this hobby. No more nerf bats.
Martials and Finger wigglers both work fine at all levels of play here.

...since I don't want to play "Casters" I'm fine with how TSR D&D did it, I'm also fine with WotC 5e D&D (at low levels).

I'm hesitant to try 3.x D&D.

Arbane
2017-12-02, 09:43 PM
I think the root of a lot of these discussions is the idea that we need to have "one game system to rule them all."

All of this talk about different scenarios with drastically different power levels and expectations would, in my mind, be better served by simply using different game systems.


Agreed. Trying to make one-size-fits-all RPG systems seems to be an exercise in frustration, as there's always SOME settings/genres it just can't do well. (GURPS doesn't do comic-book superheroes well, for example.)


That´s too harsh a judgement and a bit unfounded.

Darth Ultron knows that all players are powergaming scum who have to be kept in line so they don't destroy the game with their antics.
(I can't decided if this should be in Sarcastic or not.)

RazorChain
2017-12-03, 02:15 AM
It is very difficult to run the party of Mr Tibburs, the animated tea-dining stuffed bear that loves giving hugs, Gug, the uncouth illiterate ogre barbarian, and Raymond, the telepathic vampire merchant. Regardless of whether they were built in a class-based or point buy system. Ya gots ta set expectations, and talk it out.

Yes, when you have absolutely no skills to apply to the situation, it takes trial and error, and trying different things until something works. Yes, that generally means making new characters. Hopefully, people will be motivated to learn the appropriate skills. I'm a fan of player skills - skill at making the game run smoothly is no exception.

Again, this is crazy talk. A homicidal vampire-slaying werewolf and a homicidal werewolf-slaying vampire don't "just work" as a party. Games take work. See my tales of the party of the Paladin, the Assassin, the Undead Hunter, the Undead Master... and my character.

We agree there. I put a lot of work into my games and make sure that everybody is on the same page. The skill I value with my players has nothing do to with system mastery and I think that our opinions about what being a good player differ. But we can't discount that there are games were the players and the GM just suppose that things will work out.





I disagree with this strategy. If Luke upgrades, the storm troopers should stay the same. Luke should either steam roll them, or fight more of them, or find new targets

New targets are a part of the escalation. In the context of things it really doesn't matter if the dungeon is occupied with goblins, orcs, gnolls, mummies, vampires or umber hulks or if Luke is fighting stormtroopers or mandalorians. The GM is simply reacting to the PC's increase in power. So in the context of things if the PC's level is X then the dungeon has adversaries of CR X, what the creature is, is merely fluff.




So... the stories you can tell after years of play are the same as the stories you can play when you first create the characters? Doesn't that make the characters lose their replay value / have planned obsolescence? If they can tell story X from the get-go, why not tell story X?

In this scenario, the optimal path is to tell the best stories first, meaning everything after the first story is just a letdown. Certain Prestige classes, with their "my capstone power is...something you've already passed up several times" have demonstrated that this is a bad plan.

Why would you choose regression rather than progression for your games? :smallconfused:

As I've gotten older quality has an increased value for me. When I was younger or a teen I would game every weekend from friday to sunday and sometimes we would game in the middle of the week as well. With a career, wife, kids etc. I don't have time for that so why the **** should I spend time in a cellar killing rats when I get to game? Just start at the good part and keep going, just start at story "X".

There is no best first, I aim for quality all the way. If you write a 100 books and the first 5 are good does it mean that the other 95 will be a let down? Sure I'll use all kind of tricks for pacing during individual adventures but I aim for quality in all my sessions, that's how I have managed to keep my players interest through multiple 1-2 year campaigns.

The other thing is I don't play the same system, genre or world. I've played D&D, WHFRP, RuneQuest, Cyperpunk 2020, Ars Magica, Shadowrun, CoC, WoD (VtM, WtA, MtA), Deadlands, Gurps, Theatrix, Primetime adventures, Twerps, Advanced Fighting Fantasy, Amber, Exalted, Toon, Pendragon, Fuzion, L5R, 7th Sea, Star Wars (the old d6 and edge of empire) and Earthdawn so there are never the same stories...there are different systems and different campaign settings and then there are all the other systems that I've just tried 1 or 2 times.

When you read these forums then there are GM's who are waiting for the good parts, they're trying to build something up slowly at the expense that the players will get bored or the campaing will just deflate before they get to the good parts. How simple is this? Start at the good parts...if the good parts require the characters to start level 5 or 10 or 13 it doesn't ****ing matter, just start where the fun begins. I mean if you are at an amusement park why go 10 rounds with the merry go around when you can just head straight for the rollercoaster?

Max_Killjoy
2017-12-03, 09:57 AM
As I've gotten older quality has an increased value for me. When I was younger or a teen I would game every weekend from friday to sunday and sometimes we would game in the middle of the week as well. With a career, wife, kids etc. I don't have time for that so why the **** should I spend time in a cellar killing rats when I get to game? Just start at the good part and keep going, just start at story "X".

There is no best first, I aim for quality all the way. If you write a 100 books and the first 5 are good does it mean that the other 95 will be a let down? Sure I'll use all kind of tricks for pacing during individual adventures but I aim for quality in all my sessions, that's how I have managed to keep my players interest through multiple 1-2 year campaigns.

The other thing is I don't play the same system, genre or world. I've played D&D, WHFRP, RuneQuest, Cyperpunk 2020, Ars Magica, Shadowrun, CoC, WoD (VtM, WtA, MtA), Deadlands, Gurps, Theatrix, Primetime adventures, Twerps, Advanced Fighting Fantasy, Amber, Exalted, Toon, Pendragon, Fuzion, L5R, 7th Sea, Star Wars (the old d6 and edge of empire) and Earthdawn so there are never the same stories...there are different systems and different campaign settings and then there are all the other systems that I've just tried 1 or 2 times.

When you read these forums then there are GM's who are waiting for the good parts, they're trying to build something up slowly at the expense that the players will get bored or the campaing will just deflate before they get to the good parts. How simple is this? Start at the good parts...if the good parts require the characters to start level 5 or 10 or 13 it doesn't ****ing matter, just start where the fun begins. I mean if you are at an amusement park why go 10 rounds with the merry go around when you can just head straight for the rollercoaster?


Answers I've seen to this before (none of which I agree with):

"That's not how the game is played."
"You haven't earned those levels.""
"It's not a good story if the characters start out powerful."

Necroticplague
2017-12-03, 12:15 PM
When you read these forums then there are GM's who are waiting for the good parts, they're trying to build something up slowly at the expense that the players will get bored or the campaing will just deflate before they get to the good parts. How simple is this? Start at the good parts...if the good parts require the characters to start level 5 or 10 or 13 it doesn't ****ing matter, just start where the fun begins. I mean if you are at an amusement park why go 10 rounds with the merry go around when you can just head straight for the rollercoaster?

Kinda reminds of some similar advice I've seen for writing: Ask yourself, is this the most exciting portion of our character's lives? If not, why aren't you showing us that?

2D8HP
2017-12-03, 01:48 PM
Answers I've seen to this before (none of which I agree with):

"That's not how the game is played."
"You haven't earned those levels.""
"It's not a good story if the characters start out powerful.".
While I prefer higher levels in TD&D (so I may expect to PC to survive), I do find higher level WD&D play a bit dull and unrelatable (same with superhero RPG's like Champions and Villians & Vigilantes).

I prefer playing PC's that are closer to regular humans, but exploring a fantastic world.

I just don't find curbstomping a world exciting, I'd rather play Call of Cthullu than "Epic".

RazorChain
2017-12-03, 02:48 PM
Answers I've seen to this before (none of which I agree with):

"That's not how the game is played."
"You haven't earned those levels.""
"It's not a good story if the characters start out powerful."

I know, it's often the preconceptions that you HAVE to start at level one and is straight out of D&D school of thought where the creator thought you really had to go through the meatgrinder to earn those levesl. I mean if everybody would have thought like that then a lot of fun systems would never been made. I prefer to start characters from normal to heroic depending on what I'm runnig. It's only when I run supers that the characters have the option to be superheroic. I also like a slow but gradual buildup in power instead of starting as a farm boy and then suddenly you're punching the gods in the eye.


Kinda reminds of some similar advice I've seen for writing: Ask yourself, is this the most exciting portion of our character's lives? If not, why aren't you showing us that?

Well establishing normalcy shouldn't be underrated either or a gradual build up to a conflict/climax but that doesn't have anything to do with the heroes competence. If what leads up to the climax is boring then you've kinda shot yourself in the foot as a GM anyway. IMO the campaign should be engaging from the start not "wait guys don't leave, the campaign really takes off when you hit level 5"


.
While I prefer higher levels in TD&D (so I may expect to PC to survive), I do find higher level WD&D play a bit dull and unrelatable (same with superhero RPG's like Champions and Villians & Vigilantes).

I prefer playing PC's that are closer to regular humans, but exploring a fantastic world.

I just don't find curbstomping a world exciting, I'd rather play Call of Cthullu than "Epic".

I prefer to run grim, gritty dark fantasy where the characters are closer to normal humans than epic superheores that don't identify with the unwashed masses. I find it makes better plots, better emergent stories and forces the players to be clever and promotes smart play. Not just in what order do I have to push my win buttons to get past the opponents you lose buttons.

Mutazoia
2017-12-04, 01:24 AM
When you read these forums then there are GM's who are waiting for the good parts, they're trying to build something up slowly at the expense that the players will get bored or the campaing will just deflate before they get to the good parts. How simple is this? Start at the good parts...if the good parts require the characters to start level 5 or 10 or 13 it doesn't ****ing matter, just start where the fun begins. I mean if you are at an amusement park why go 10 rounds with the merry go around when you can just head straight for the rollercoaster?

And this is why movies today are 90% explosion and 10% plot. Casablanca would never get greenlit for production in todays market, because everybody wants the action NOW.

Don't build suspense, or a plot for that matter. Just throw some monsters at me to hit with a sword/spell already!

Even the rollercoaster gets boring after the first couple of rides....

RazorChain
2017-12-04, 04:56 AM
And this is why movies today are 90% explosion and 10% plot. Casablanca would never get greenlit for production in todays market, because everybody wants the action NOW.

Don't build suspense, or a plot for that matter. Just throw some monsters at me to hit with a sword/spell already!

Even the rollercoaster gets boring after the first couple of rides....

Really? I find combat maybe the least interesting part of roleplaying and my 5-6 hour sessions include maybe one combat encounter.

The good part has NOTHING to do with combat

I'm saying if you want to run a heroic adventure then start the PCs as heroes instead of running an uninspired filler just to so they can become the heroes they need to be.

Those who play point based systems are used to this, you just allocate points based on what power level you need for your PC's

So if I want to run an adventures about a black ops team working for the Argus Corporation, investigating mysterious cults, aliens and paranormal activities for the world goverments. Then I am bloody not going start the PCs in bootcamp

Darth Ultron
2017-12-04, 07:25 AM
Really? I find combat maybe the least interesting part of roleplaying and my 5-6 hour sessions include maybe one combat encounter.

The good part has NOTHING to do with combat

I'm saying if you want to run a heroic adventure then start the PCs as heroes instead of running an uninspired filler just to so they can become the heroes they need to be.

Those who play point based systems are used to this, you just allocate points based on what power level you need for your PC's

So if I want to run an adventures about a black ops team working for the Argus Corporation, investigating mysterious cults, aliens and paranormal activities for the world goverments. Then I am bloody not going start the PCs in bootcamp

I like combat and action, but it needs to have some meaning. I see a lot of games just switch from 'downtime' to 'combat' with little in-between. And combat is just something fun, but pointless, to do.

At best I like lots of role playing around the combat...the characters are fighting for a reason, as part of a plot and have some sort of goal. Not just ''randoms combatz!"

Though having players start at the beginning with first level character makes a lot of sense. It gives players a chance to get to know their characters abilities and be able to play the character. To just take a player, and give them a powerful, experienced character is just asking for the game to fail.

Max_Killjoy
2017-12-04, 07:41 AM
Really? I find combat maybe the least interesting part of roleplaying and my 5-6 hour sessions include maybe one combat encounter.

The good part has NOTHING to do with combat

I'm saying if you want to run a heroic adventure then start the PCs as heroes instead of running an uninspired filler just to so they can become the heroes they need to be.

Those who play point based systems are used to this, you just allocate points based on what power level you need for your PC's

So if I want to run an adventures about a black ops team working for the Argus Corporation, investigating mysterious cults, aliens and paranormal activities for the world goverments. Then I am bloody not going start the PCs in bootcamp


"The good part" sounds like shorthand for "what actually matters for the kind of campaign I want to run".

An extreme parallel for the insistence some have for starting at level 1 -- it's as if a Vampire GM wanted to run a campaign about Elders who've all been undead for at least 200 years, but instead of giving the players extra "Freebie Points" or other stuff in character creation to make their characters appropriate to the concept, he instead told them that they'd be making their characters as Neonates and playing out everything that happened since 1800... before the campaign actually gets to the present-day events that the GM really wanted to focus on.

This side-discussion illustrates a part of why I really dislike level-based systems and all the presumptions that go along with them. Such games are set up on a very specific model of what a character's "arc" should be like. Then players come along and insist that the rules must be adhered to and characters must start at the lowest level. Thus, character arcs and story arcs that don't fit the model that the game is based on the first place end up being crammed, shoehorned, and crowbarred into the structure of the level-based progression. It's akin to how The Hero's Journey, which was originally meant to be analytical and descriptive, has been mistaken as a prescriptive formula by far too many writers.

PhoenixPhyre
2017-12-04, 08:15 AM
"The good part" sounds like shorthand for "what actually matters for the kind of campaign I want to run".

An extreme parallel for the insistence some have for starting at level 1 -- it's as if a Vampire GM wanted to run a campaign about Elders who've all been undead for at least 200 years, but instead of giving the players extra "Freebie Points" or other stuff in character creation to make their characters appropriate to the concept, he instead told them that they'd be making their characters as Neonates and playing out everything that happened since 1800... before the campaign actually gets to the present-day events that the GM really wanted to focus on.

This side-discussion illustrates a part of why I really dislike level-based systems and all the presumptions that go along with them. Such games are set up on a very specific model of what a character's "arc" should be like. Then players come along and insist that the rules must be adhered to and characters must start at the lowest level. Thus, character arcs and story arcs that don't fit the model that the game is based on the first place end up being crammed, shoehorned, and crowbarred into the structure of the level-based progression. It's akin to how The Hero's Journey, which was originally meant to be analytical and descriptive, has been mistaken as a prescriptive formula by far too many writers.

See, here's where we differ. A bit. I agree that insisting on starting at level 1 if you really want to run a different scale of game is silly. I do prefer to have a series of arcs--you're heroic at all times, but the scale of those heroics changes. I guess I'm just less tied to a particular concept/arc/whatever. I want to see what my players' characters do over the whole scale, leaving things very open-ended.

I'm not playing "a bunch of heroes foil <a specific villain>'s plot" (singular), I'm playing "you're adventurers. Go adventure. There's evil deeds afoot in every direction you can think of." This lends itself well to a series of arcs that gradually increase in scope and complexity as plot threads get woven together. Heck--most of the time I'm making up the plot as we go, using the discoveries from the previous arc and trying to weave them into a coherent whole. This is helped by starting at lower levels (scopes, really) and gradually building outward. It also gives the players a sense of investment. They did build that.

One side effect of this is that the players tend to be proactive and the antagonists must react to them. My villains usually play the long game--they're fine if their plot takes 2 years, 5 years, or 20 years to come about. This way, there's not the artificial "you always seem to discover the plot right at the critical moment" feeling. Of course, if the PCs get too visible, the enemies will shift their plots--currently they're accelerating one set of plots (going from the subtle corruption approach to a more brute-force plan) because the PCs started knocking off the auxiliary villains and so ended up on the BBEG's radar.

Mechalich
2017-12-04, 08:46 AM
This side-discussion illustrates a part of why I really dislike level-based systems and all the presumptions that go along with them. Such games are set up on a very specific model of what a character's "arc" should be like. Then players come along and insist that the rules must be adhered to and characters must start at the lowest level. Thus, character arcs and story arcs that don't fit the model that the game is based on the first place end up being crammed, shoehorned, and crowbarred into the structure of the level-based progression. It's akin to how The Hero's Journey, which was originally meant to be analytical and descriptive, has been mistaken as a prescriptive formula by far too many writers.

Level-based systems are actually something that, like classes, should be used in design as a form of simplification for a game with a particular focus where sorting characters into roles for interaction with the primary mechanical setup saves time. In early editions of D&D this actually sort of worked. Since at the time, your class and level pretty much only dictated what you could do in combat (with the exception of utility spells). Pretty much everything else, since there was no consistent skill system or representation of non-combat abilities, was freeform. 1e and 2e sessions could go quite some time without anything being rolled outside of combat - since utility spells and magical items were mostly use/don't use options that didn't involve chance. Additionally leveling up in 1e and 2e was simple. You looked at a couple of tables, changed a few numbers, and if you were a spellcaster noted new spell slots and that was it. You didn't actually make any major choices - yes thieves allotted their points and clerics and druids got to decide which spells they would use if they had access to a new level, but it was still quick.

Once the d20 system came in the simplicity vanished as each level came with a bewildering array of possible options - especially once you hit the mid-levels and prestige classes come into play - and the choices made each time you leveled up affected all future choices going forward. The classes also grew less flexible, because now skills and feats represented a huge array of out-of-combat options. In 2e the wizard could just be the party face, it was a role whomever in the party wanted to have got to take. In 3.X a wizard as the party face means a massive sub-optimal investment in skills at the least. Frankly 3.X is't even the worst. The classes in Star Wars SAGA are so opened ended as to be largely useless and the impetus for choosing which one to start with is more about the 1st level feats you get than anything else (many concepts in SAGA edition work best as 1/19 builds).

So classes and levels make sense in a game where combat is going to largely be a discrete tactical situation and those capabilities aren't 'this is my character' so much as 'this is how my character fights.' And then characters who chose a certain fighting style progress a certain way and that's just how it works. Heck in most point-buy systems each player gives their character capability in one single fighting option - whether that's something absurdly broad like 'melee' in oWoD or something hyperspecific like 'Mounted archery' in GURPS - and then uses that relentlessly because point buy systems tend to reward specialization and most GMs are bad about taking away character's primary weapons as a balance measure.

D&D 3.X is in a weird situation wherein taking a class level is actually like participating in point buy, but instead of being able to buy what you want you can only buy from a selection of packages that each provide different things. This isn't unique to D&D - Eclipse Phase has a character creation option that is exactly that - but it is not really a useful way to utilize classes. And of course the imbalance comes not really from deficiencies in any one class, but because the path to power is accumulating the highest spellcasting level possible using the smallest number of levels (yes it is possible to make builds that are more powerful than straight up Wizard 20, but at that point you're so far off the scale as it makes no difference anyway). D&D classes and levels are actually much more viable once you've restricted the tiers - in parties of all full casters it's descriptive of what kind of god your character intends to become; in half-caster parties what kind of epic hero; and in non-caster parties what kind of master warrior.

PhoenixPhyre
2017-12-04, 09:10 AM
@Mechalich

I find that this insistence on the part of 3e to cram everything into one coordinated system (ie the d20 system itself) to have been a mistake. I prefer the older "your class sets your strengths, but everyone can attempt any in-game task" paradigm. 5e does a decent (albeit not perfect) job with this.

Also of note is that leveling up in 5e is really fast (unless you're doing something crazy). Most levels you might get a new feature or your HP might go up. Numbers other than HP only change rarely (when proficiency or ability scores change, about 1x/4 levels). Casters get new spells every so often, but usually in small numbers. Features and spells are usually pretty independent, so you don't have to consider how a change in one interacts with the whole suite of other features. Even multi-classing isn't so bad to deal with, and is firmly optional (and not always the most powerful option).

RazorChain
2017-12-04, 09:35 AM
I like combat and action, but it needs to have some meaning. I see a lot of games just switch from 'downtime' to 'combat' with little in-between. And combat is just something fun, but pointless, to do.

At best I like lots of role playing around the combat...the characters are fighting for a reason, as part of a plot and have some sort of goal. Not just ''randoms combatz!"

Though having players start at the beginning with first level character makes a lot of sense. It gives players a chance to get to know their characters abilities and be able to play the character. To just take a player, and give them a powerful, experienced character is just asking for the game to fail.

I get what you mean. Another of my hobbies is tactical wargaming, when I was younger I had the time to play stuff like Warhammer Fantasy/40K but nowdays I don't have the time so my wargaming is done via the computer. If I want to play a string of fights I can just do that on the computer.

So I do enjoy combat but it's not why I'm roleplaying. Fights may break out in the context of the plot but I find fights are best when something is at stake, not only the PC's life.

Starting level 1 may be newbie friendly and helps them learn the ropes but players that have been playing for years shouldn't have any problem starting at whatever power level.


"The good part" sounds like shorthand for "what actually matters for the kind of campaign I want to run".

An extreme parallel for the insistence some have for starting at level 1 -- it's as if a Vampire GM wanted to run a campaign about Elders who've all been undead for at least 200 years, but instead of giving the players extra "Freebie Points" or other stuff in character creation to make their characters appropriate to the concept, he instead told them that they'd be making their characters as Neonates and playing out everything that happened since 1800... before the campaign actually gets to the present-day events that the GM really wanted to focus on.

This side-discussion illustrates a part of why I really dislike level-based systems and all the presumptions that go along with them. Such games are set up on a very specific model of what a character's "arc" should be like. Then players come along and insist that the rules must be adhered to and characters must start at the lowest level. Thus, character arcs and story arcs that don't fit the model that the game is based on the first place end up being crammed, shoehorned, and crowbarred into the structure of the level-based progression. It's akin to how The Hero's Journey, which was originally meant to be analytical and descriptive, has been mistaken as a prescriptive formula by far too many writers.

I'm no fan of level based system but that's more because I feel shoehorned in during character creation and I feel I have to justify why my characters is getting this and that ability that doesn't quite fit the concept. I'll be travelling tomorrow to my home country and will be playing with my old group and they're testing out D&D so I rolled up a trash talking fistfighter based on Conor McGregor....monk seemed to be the obvious reason but D&D is kinda trying to force down my throat that I'm a shaolin kung fu monk. At level 11 my character got the "power" of tranquility...channeling his inner peace in a aura so others won't harm him, this is kinda jarring disconnect with my taunting fistfighter that I just want to flush that "power" down the toilet, so I'll just ignore it completely...I'm not even going to write it on my character sheet.

Max_Killjoy
2017-12-04, 09:56 AM
I'm no fan of level based system but that's more because I feel shoehorned in during character creation and I feel I have to justify why my characters is getting this and that ability that doesn't quite fit the concept. I'll be travelling tomorrow to my home country and will be playing with my old group and they're testing out D&D so I rolled up a trash talking fistfighter based on Conor McGregor....monk seemed to be the obvious reason but D&D is kinda trying to force down my throat that I'm a shaolin kung fu monk. At level 11 my character got the "power" of tranquility...channeling his inner peace in a aura so others won't harm him, this is kinda jarring disconnect with my taunting fistfighter that I just want to flush that "power" down the toilet, so I'll just ignore it completely...I'm not even going to write it on my character sheet.


And that's also getting into the serious drawbacks of class-based systems. You end up trying to work the character through a set of preset concepts instead of building the mechanical side to reflect the actual individual character in question.

Are there any Barbarian or Fighter "powers" around that level that might fit better with your concept? Is your GM in this case the sort who might let you kitbash a little and replace that power with something else?

Or, could you reskin that power as an aura of confidence instead of tranquility, such that it opponents find themselves reluctant to take a swing at this guy because he's projecting his "awesomeness"?

(Never mind that I find either concept -- tranquility or confidence -- a bit offputting if the opponent has no way to resist... I'm just going with it for the sake of the sidebar discussion.)


E: Another example might be spellcasters in D&D. Some variation on Warlock might be the closest mechanical mapping of the character's intended abilities, but the conceptual mapping of someone who "made a bargain for power" doesn't necessarily fit the character. One could perhaps strip the "bargain" part out as "fluff" and simply use the mechanical parts, but there are players who would strongly object to such a thing, because they view the mechanical and conceptual parts of the Class as intrinsically interwoven.

Florian
2017-12-04, 12:25 PM
And that's also getting into the serious drawbacks of class-based systems. You end up trying to work the character through a set of preset concepts instead of building the mechanical side to reflect the actual individual character in question.

Take a look at Shadow of the Demon Lord for a class and level-based system the can actually work with "growing with the character".

In short, you don´t have "one class" but many of them over your career, which you start, begin to master and learn everything that there is to it over time, distributed along the levels.
For example, you pick your novice class at 1st, advances at 2nd and 5th, mastered it at 8th, you pick your expert class at 3rd, advance it at 6th and master it at 9th, pick your master class at 7th and master it at 10th.

Knaight
2017-12-04, 03:52 PM
And this is why movies today are 90% explosion and 10% plot. Casablanca would never get greenlit for production in todays market, because everybody wants the action NOW.

Right, that would be why last year's Oscar winners included Spotlight, Inside Out, Ex Machina, and The Big Short, all of which were also commercially successful (smaller budgets help there). The year before that? Birdman, Imitation Game, Interstellar, and Big Hero Six make a showing. All of which are clearly explosion fests.

CharonsHelper
2017-12-04, 04:04 PM
And this is why movies today are 90% explosion and 10% plot. Casablanca would never get greenlit for production in todays market, because everybody wants the action NOW.

Don't build suspense, or a plot for that matter. Just throw some monsters at me to hit with a sword/spell already!

Even the rollercoaster gets boring after the first couple of rides....

1. Get off your lawn?

2. You seem to be conflating blockbusters with all modern movies.

Talakeal
2017-12-04, 04:05 PM
Right, that would be why last year's Oscar winners included Spotlight, Inside Out, Ex Machina, and The Big Short, all of which were also commercially successful (smaller budgets help there). The year before that? Birdman, Imitation Game, Interstellar, and Big Hero Six make a showing. All of which are clearly explosion fests.

Oscar bait movies tend to be their own thing mostly seperate from mainstream Hollywood. There is a bit of crossover, but if we were going by box office rather than awards I think you would find the "90 percent explosions" rule to hit a little closer to home.

Talakeal
2017-12-04, 04:08 PM
1. Get off your lawn?

He isnt wrong though.

Look at modern movies and compare them to older movies within the same franchise.

For example I cant imagine one of the modern Planet of the Apes prequels having a twenty minute courtroom scene like the original.

CharonsHelper
2017-12-04, 04:09 PM
Oscar bait movies tend to be their own thing mostly seperate from mainstream Hollywood. There is a bit of crossover, but if we were going by box office rather than awards I think you would find the "90 percent explosions" rule to hit a little closer to home.

Maybe for movies alone (Though I wouldn't take that bet for all such combined - blockbusters are big but relatively few.) because that's what they bring to the table that TV doesn't.

Most TV has little to no explosions and overall has far more viewership than movies do.


For example I cant imagine one of the modern Planet of the Apes prequels having a twenty minute courtroom scene like the original.

And various incarnations of Law & Order have courtroom scenes that long on a regular basis.

The sort of story once told in movies isn't gone - it has just shifted to TV. Because why would I pay $10 for a movie when I can get my fix for the same sort of story for free on TV?

Arbane
2017-12-04, 05:34 PM
So if I want to run an adventures about a black ops team working for the Argus Corporation, investigating mysterious cults, aliens and paranormal activities for the world goverments. Then I am bloody not going start the PCs in bootcamp

Just think how pointless the Epic of Gilgamesh would be without the first 20 tablets telling how the future God-King of Uruk killed rats to level up!

I agree, the whole 'EARN your fun, n00bs!' attitude is toxic. Even Blessed Saint Gygax often started his parties off at level 3 just to avoid the worst of it.

Necroticplague
2017-12-04, 10:59 PM
And this is why movies today are 90% explosion and 10% plot. Casablanca would never get greenlit for production in todays market, because everybody wants the action NOW.

Don't build suspense, or a plot for that matter. Just throw some monsters at me to hit with a sword/spell already!

The fact you seem to think 'building suspense' or 'building the plot' couldn't be the fun part of a game says a lot more about yourself than society as a whole.

Max_Killjoy
2017-12-04, 11:05 PM
The fact you seem to think 'building suspense' or 'building the plot' couldn't be the fun part of a game says a lot more about yourself than society as a whole.

While I didn't necessarily agree with their point, I think they were being sarcastic.

Mechalich
2017-12-04, 11:15 PM
There is nothing about a class and level system that requires characters to be unnecessarily weak at level one and be suited only for fighting small animals or puny barely functional humanoids like goblins. It can be this way and most gamers are used to this because there's a temptation, especially in video games to use the leveling system as tutorials and to gradually ease characters into new options. However this is by no means a necessary thing. The 1st level Dragonborn in Skyrim is already capable of taking on multiple trained soldiers in combat, and the same can be true of tabletop characters. Star Wars SAGA edition, by the simple method of giving out triple Hp at level one made it perfectly possible for a level one party to fight stormtrooper squads and carry their weight. D&D simply has a peculiarity built in where characters start out absurdly weak and rise in power incredibly fast to the point that they quickly outgrow the game system. 3.X really only functions in half the level range, 3-12, but the other half is a nice space to dump content into in order to sell more books. Heck, WotC convinced people to buy the Epic Level Handbook.

Talakeal
2017-12-04, 11:19 PM
Maybe for movies alone (Though I wouldn't take that bet for all such combined - blockbusters are big but relatively few.) because that's what they bring to the table that TV doesn't.

Most TV has little to no explosions and overall has far more viewership than movies do.



And various incarnations of Law & Order have courtroom scenes that long on a regular basis.

The sort of story once told in movies isn't gone - it has just shifted to TV. Because why would I pay $10 for a movie when I can get my fix for the same sort of story for free on TV?

Just because it still exists in another format doesnt mean that movies haven't changed.

Personally I like both spectacle and exposition, having to choose between one or the other is sad.

Lord Haart
2017-12-05, 01:30 AM
New targets are a part of the escalation. In the context of things it really doesn't matter if the dungeon is occupied with goblins, orcs, gnolls, mummies, vampires or umber hulks or if Luke is fighting stormtroopers or mandalorians. The GM is simply reacting to the PC's increase in power. So in the context of things if the PC's level is X then the dungeon has adversaries of CR X, what the creature is, is merely fluff.

Playing with most DMs i've played with (including myself), it actually does matter a lot if Luke is fighting mandalorians, because even if their strenght relative to him is now equal to what stormtroopers' strenght relative to younger-him used to be, their position in the game world is very different because of their strenght while stormtroopers are still out there, in the majority of the world, and what they used to rule is now Luke's to liberate, rule, or otherwise screw with at his non-stormtrooper-impaired leisure. Luke used to be a hero who can defeat a stormtrooper squad in combat (while having to run and hide from a stormtrooper army), now he can defeat a mandalorian squad in combat (while having to run and hide from a mandalorian army); it might feel the same while in a dungeon, but outside of a dungeon it makes for a qualitatively different gameplay experience (according to enough players' feelings that i don't think it can be tossed aside as mere self-delusion by fluff).

Mandalorian being more powerful, more rare, less widespread, requiring more resourses to function in large numbers means Luke doesn't just run into them nearly anywhere he goes, but has to either be purposefully hunted by them or cross their path of his own volition. They aren't indle with their power; they're busy throwing it around to achieve their own ends, and they won't do garrison job or hyperpath flight lane patrol or contraband search — unless there is a damned important and valuable reason to temporarily allocate their best resourses to guarding/trying to intercept something (and where stormtroopers' valuable contraband would be something that can be sold for a high price, or a powerful personal weapon, mandalorians' valuable contraband could be a weapon of mass destruction, a cloning apparatus or something similarly moral choice-inducing, or at the very least something that has enough eyes on it that Luke gets offered an unlikely alliance — or several). Speaking of which, looking for competent allies against mandalorians won't longer lend Luke a group of people who felt what rebelling against the system is like and liked it (with egoistical scoundrels, treacherous scumbugs and enemy spies thrown in), but a selection of retired and acting badasses who will darn well demand Luke earns their darn respect, because they've lived dangerous for years and have (or need) a personal cause to keep living that way (with notorious wanted criminals, treacherous oracular Force sorcerers and Luke's old enemies' spies who care nothing about Luke because their mission is to spy on Mandalorians thrown in); maybe the proportion of loyal to treacherous stays the same (doesn't have to), and maybe earning their respect is just as hard as before, but the number of peculiarities and incompatibilities they can afford to have, the amount of influence and aces-up-their-sleeves they might have (and might very well play their cards close to their chest, working together with Luke yet withholding their most impactful capacities because they don't like the costs attached or aren't convinced enough yet or prefer to have their contingencies in place and not place all their stones in a single hat) — these can be wastly higher than a stormtrooper-level ally can realistically versimilitudely have, and Luke will have to weight his choices carefully because, unlike before, he can't just find another bunch of allies in a different Empire-oppressed place.

And stormtroopers being far less of a threat… Man, even original D&D with its named levels, followers and castles celebrated the idea that if you've moved from fighting goblin armies to fighting gnoll armies, you can and should find some time to go back to goblins, roflstomp them with your loyal army of former goblinfighters (now grizzled veterans), keep that army and all the grateful people they've liberated, get written into history books as shining example of heroism, have free access to nearly any mundane resourses you might want to request (because if a man who freed you from the tyrany of goblins says even worse things will happen if you don't swiftly build a giant wall out of snow and ice along the entire northern border, you know they will), and be recognised as a political power by other political powers if you're interested in exploring that direction (and if you aren't, but then you suddenly need a bit of political leverage, you deserve to get a listening ear — and it's not like old "earn your audience first" crap will fly with you anymore if you don't).


Sure, not every DM (and not every plot) will let you fully explore the plotline of "remember those enemies of level X-5 and their oppressive and injust empire? I attack the empire. 370 force damage. Is it dead now? Did it drop any good loot? Say, i've got some funny ideas about personal property that i'd like all those freed people to try out." But the impact of your actions is there, where it haven't been before — and if you care about the world you play in, it's a world of difference.

Mutazoia
2017-12-05, 01:43 AM
The fact you seem to think 'building suspense' or 'building the plot' couldn't be the fun part of a game says a lot more about yourself than society as a whole.

Actually, I think building suspense and building a plot are very important part of a game. That comment was a bit of snark, directed at the "just drop me into the middle of a story and let me start hitting things" mentality.

RazorChain
2017-12-05, 04:05 AM
Playing with most DMs i've played with (including myself), it actually does matter a lot if Luke is fighting mandalorians, because even if their strenght relative to him is now equal to what stormtroopers' strenght relative to younger-him used to be, their position in the game world is very different because of their strenght while stormtroopers are still out there, in the majority of the world, and what they used to rule is now Luke's to liberate, rule, or otherwise screw with at his non-stormtrooper-impaired leisure. Luke used to be a hero who can defeat a stormtrooper squad in combat (while having to run and hide from a stormtrooper army), now he can defeat a mandalorian squad in combat (while having to run and hide from a mandalorian army); it might feel the same while in a dungeon, but outside of a dungeon it makes for a qualitatively different gameplay experience (according to enough players' feelings that i don't think it can be tossed aside as mere self-delusion.

Like I said from a mechanical standpoint the GM is just throwing higher numbers at his players to keep them challenged. The GM adjusts the statblocks to keep up with the PCs.

The rest is only fluff. Immersion does rely more on fluff than mechanics. If you name your statblock a dragon and your PCs defeat it then the players will cheer that they killed a dragon but in a mechanical sense they defeated your statblock.

Mechalich
2017-12-05, 05:07 AM
Like I said from a mechanical standpoint the GM is just throwing higher numbers at his players to keep them challenged. The GM adjusts the statblocks to keep up with the PCs.

The rest is only fluff. Immersion does rely more on fluff than mechanics. If you name your statblock a dragon and your PCs defeat it then the players will cheer that they killed a dragon but in a mechanical sense they defeated your statblock.

This is actually a key design question. In a system where the PCs are expected to gain significantly in mechanical capabilities during play, either those gains are largely an abstraction in which nothing but stats are being adjusted to provide a more intricate tactical scenario, or is actual power being gained and beings at the higher level and or point scale portions of the curve really are capable of mass slaughter of lower-level beings, oftentimes to the point of global annihilation?

Both options create problems. For instance, Exalted is very clearly in the second camp, and as such, Exalted does not work at all. The big time NPCs who are actual players in the setting have stats that represent thousands of XP (in a system where a generous GM might give out 5 XP per session) and there are characters who could quite literally take on the entire reincarnated Solar host from chargen and slaughter them all. Thus, unless you GM fronts the PCs hundreds of XP at minimum your chances of stopping any of the crises imperiling the setting are quite literally nil (honestly this is largely the core problem of every WW game - there's always someone powerful enough to snuff the party out like bugs the minute they become annoying).

The first course, which is perhaps exemplified by 4e D&D but is also commonly fuond in many JRPGs, is that combat is a sort of bizarre tactical sport and PC and NPC capabilities are highly abstracted and that the PCs were totally capable of fighting the final boss at level one because nothing about gaining 99 levels and a whole bunch of combat abilities in game was actually meant to imply any real change in their power level (the best example might be Final Fantasy XV, which some crazy gamer (https://kotaku.com/youtuber-beats-final-fantasy-xv-at-level-one-with-no-it-1790712123) actually beat at level one).

Taken seriously - which is totally optional by the way, there are massively successful fantasy franchises like Dragonball that fundamentally don't - this problem means that games that wish to retain verisimilitude and have functional settings have to limit scale. Working with the 3.X system, that means choosing E6, because that way you have a scenario where massive hordes of level 1 warriors still actually remain a potential threat to the most powerful monsters in the game.

Max_Killjoy
2017-12-05, 07:42 AM
Like I said from a mechanical standpoint the GM is just throwing higher numbers at his players to keep them challenged. The GM adjusts the statblocks to keep up with the PCs.

The rest is only fluff. Immersion does rely more on fluff than mechanics. If you name your statblock a dragon and your PCs defeat it then the players will cheer that they killed a dragon but in a mechanical sense they defeated your statblock.


Which is exactly the opposite of my approach. The important part is that the characters are confronting this dragon, and the statblock only exists to "map" the dragon into the mechanical system which will help adjudicate and "simulate" that confrontation. "Just throwing higher numbers" is meaningless, and "only fluff" misses the point entirely -- without the "fluff" there's just a bunch of numbers that don't mean anything.

CharonsHelper
2017-12-05, 07:59 AM
Just because it still exists in another format doesnt mean that movies haven't changed.

I'll agree with that. Every form of media changes over the decades. Modern plays and books also have a very different vibe than a century ago.

I totally disagree with Mutazoia's initial premise that it's proof that modern viewers are impatient or his implication that they have somehow gone downhill over the years.

PhoenixPhyre
2017-12-05, 08:01 AM
Which is exactly the opposite of my approach. The important part is that the characters are confronting this dragon, and the statblock only exists to "map" the dragon into the mechanical system which will help adjudicate and "simulate" that confrontation. "Just throwing higher numbers" is meaningless, and "only fluff" misses the point entirely -- without the "fluff" there's just a bunch of numbers that don't mean anything.

I both agree and disagree (although it may be just semantics). A stat block should reflect the in-universe fiction to the degree that it's important for the task at hand. A stat block for a combat encounter will look very different than a stat block for a social struggle (opposing counsel at a trial, for example). I believe that the mechanical system is a UI for the game. This means that stat blocks should be adapted to the situation and contain only the necessary information.

5e's solution to this whole situation (do you scale the challenges, leading to a treadmill effect, or do you leave them static and let the party ignore 90% of everything/get bored fighting goblins that aren't a threat) is one reason I like it. Where at level one a small group of goblins is a major threat, at level 10 a large group/small army is a threat, and at level 20 a large army is a threat. Increasing power mostly increases the scope of creatures you can fight, it doesn't mean that you can just ignore the lower stuff. I've found some of the more challenging fights come from having 2-3 monsters of CR ~ APL/2. You can also graft abilities pretty freely between monsters (or add your own) and adjust HD without changing other stuff. This makes monster design much more flexible than it was in the past.

For example, I created a combination mechanical monstrosity--5 parts that were all one monster but took 5 separate turns. This emulates the idea of a monster that has to be disabled piece by piece. Each piece did its own thing and had it's own weaponry. Didn't take very long. I just took an Iron Golem and scaled it up and switched out the actions for more relevant ones. Sadly I never saw it in combat because the party decided to go straight for the BBEG's lieutenant (instead of the tertiary boss that this one was).

Florian
2017-12-05, 08:13 AM
I'll agree with that. Every form of media changes over the decades. Modern plays and books also have a very different vibe than a century ago.

I totally disagree with Mutazoia's initial premise that it's proof that modern viewers are impatient or his implication that they have somehow gone downhill over the years.

Hm... Yes, sure. Thing is, a crude but entertaining story like most of the Marvel stuff can be done in the narrow time frame of a "movie". I actually enjoy stuff like Harpers Island, Banshee, American Gods, etc., that can´t be told outside the time-frame offered by a serial. That said, I´m always in awe of movies like Dead Man, Strange Days, Oceans 11 and so on, that manage to pack the full experience in the short time and fully reach out and ensnare me as customer.