A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default House Rule Tier Balancing (Long!) [3.5]

    I'm going to be starting a campaign soon which will feature both some players who are fairly new to the game, and some very experienced optimizers. I find that in these situations it's good to have some house rules to keep things balanced, otherwise you end up with some players overshadowing others by a big margin. If you are just playing with newbies you can play as normal, and with just optimizers you can ratchet up the Encounter Levels to challenge them, but when you have both you need to work to maintain harmony.

    The way I generally do this is by using the ever popular Tier system to rank classes. As most of you know, one of the ways to offset the differences between tiers is to allow the lower tier classes to Gestalt. Tier 1 and 2 classes play as normal, tier 3 & 4 classes can gestalt with an NPC class, and tier 5 and 6 classes can gestalt with another tier 5 or 6 class.

    Works pretty good, overall. But I've used it a lot and found that (in my campaigns anyway) it could use some tinkering. For instance, there is actually a fairly huge gap in power between a first tier class and a second tier one when dealing with experienced players who know all the tricks, and the gap between a third and fourth tier class can be even greater. And the difference between a fifth and sixth tier class is often the difference between "meh" and "completely unplayable".

    So here's what I do instead. Everyone gets to gestalt, but the following restrictions apply:

    * A first tier class may gestalt with only Expert, Aristocrat, Warrior and (if you just don't feel like bothering) Commoner. This basically lets you fix one minor weakness of your class (low BaB, bad skill points, etc). If you take a PrC that raises you up a tier you can only gestalt with Commoner for those levels (meaning zero benefit).

    * A second tier class may gestalt with any of the above, as well as Adept, Magewright, or any sixth tier class.

    * A third tier class may gestalt as above, or with any fifth tier class

    * A fourth tier class may gestalt as above or with any other fourth tier class.

    * If one of your classes is a full caster then you can't gestalt with any other caster class (except maybe Magewright or Adept). If you are a partial caster then you can gestalt with another partial caster (so Ranger//Paladin is okay, for example).

    * The cheese stands alone.

    Okay, if anyone actually had enough patience to read all that, here's my actual issue. I've used these house rules several times before and they work pretty good. Like all Gestalt games this tends to lead to some pretty powerful players, but I find that it lets me throw strong enough encounters in to challenge the optimizers without the less experienced players being left out.

    But in this new campaign I want to encourage players to pick monstrous races for fluff reasons. They don't all have to be monsters, but I'd like at least half the party to be something interesting and abnormal to fit the somewhat odd setting and plot. Since this is a gestalt game, the obvious solution is Monster Classes.

    But I have no idea how to combine them with my tier system above. I mean, what the heck tier is a level of Air elemental?! What about a harpy?!

    Monster classes are traditionally considered weak, so I imagine that most of them are no better than tier 4, but I'm not sure. Are some significantly better than others? And then there's the fact that I'm combining them with classes in a gestalt. A wizard in a normal campaign will almost never give up caster levels, but allow him to gestalt with a monster and the possibilities of races like Illithids that have massive Int bonuses are going to make his eyes light right up.

    Clearly I need to prevent that. What should I do?
    Last edited by Starscream; 2010-02-20 at 10:09 PM.
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  2. - Top - End - #2
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: House Rule Tier Balancing (Long!) [3.5]

    I'd say the monster racial classes are almost universally T4 or T5. The trumpet archon is the only one I'd consider T1 on its own, and only from 1-9 (as it gets cleric casting roughly on par with the cleric for those levels - and cleric 4 casting at ECL 2, oddly).

    I wish I had better advice for you, but I don't ^^;; Good luck with the balancing!
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    Default Re: House Rule Tier Balancing (Long!) [3.5]

    Since you know who your optimizers are, instead of coming up with a convoluted way to slow them down, why not do it directly? Give those players power limits, but present the limitations as 'challenges'. For instance, challenge them to pick a -2 tier prestige class and 'make do' with it.
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    Default Re: House Rule Tier Balancing (Long!) [3.5]

    Quote Originally Posted by Godskook View Post
    Since you know who your optimizers are, instead of coming up with a convoluted way to slow them down, why not do it directly? Give those players power limits, but present the limitations as 'challenges'. For instance, challenge them to pick a -2 tier prestige class and 'make do' with it.
    But then you're punishing optimization, which is generally a good trait, not bad, by not letting them be a caster of any real sort. If they're okay with that, then great, but if they want to be a wizard (for non-optimization reasons) it's not really fair to tell them they just can't be.
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    Default Re: House Rule Tier Balancing (Long!) [3.5]

    Quote Originally Posted by AgentPaper View Post
    But then you're punishing optimization, which is generally a good trait, not bad, by not letting them be a caster of any real sort. If they're okay with that, then great, but if they want to be a wizard (for non-optimization reasons) it's not really fair to tell them they just can't be.
    I'd have to check the PrC tier list to see what -2 is like, but I was thinking.......just checked it and -2 is too much of a restriction, but 0 or -1 would probably be interesting. There's a pretty diverse list in those tiers, too.

    But really, that was just an example. The point was to ask your 'good' players to accept some sort of handicap billed as a challenge to their playing skills. If all the 'good' players are running a spell-level behind in their casting classes while the new players aren't, there'll always be places for the new players to shine.
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    Default Re: House Rule Tier Balancing (Long!) [3.5]

    Quote Originally Posted by Godskook View Post
    I'd have to check the PrC tier list to see what -2 is like, but I was thinking.......just checked it and -2 is too much of a restriction, but 0 or -1 would probably be interesting. There's a pretty diverse list in those tiers, too.

    But really, that was just an example. The point was to ask your 'good' players to accept some sort of handicap billed as a challenge to their playing skills. If all the 'good' players are running a spell-level behind in their casting classes while the new players aren't, there'll always be places for the new players to shine.
    Ah, I mis-read that as restricted classes by tier, not PrCs. That's not as bad, but it's still punishing them for being good at something you want them to be good at. It's like if you punished a good roleplayer that was up-staging the rest of the party by forcing them to play boring characters or something.

    Much, MUCH better to give benefits to those you know aren't all that great at optimizing, for example the gestalt system in the OP, which is interesting.
    Last edited by AgentPaper; 2010-02-20 at 11:20 PM.
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    Default Re: House Rule Tier Balancing (Long!) [3.5]

    Quote Originally Posted by Godskook View Post
    Since you know who your optimizers are, instead of coming up with a convoluted way to slow them down, why not do it directly? Give those players power limits, but present the limitations as 'challenges'. For instance, challenge them to pick a -2 tier prestige class and 'make do' with it.
    I like it! Adding special restrictions to the optimizers is a fun way to maintain balance while still giving them a chance to flex their op-fu. See this thread for some similar approaches.
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    Default Re: House Rule Tier Balancing (Long!) [3.5]

    Quote Originally Posted by AgentPaper View Post
    Ah, I mis-read that as restricted classes by tier, not PrCs. That's not as bad, but it's still punishing them for being good at something you want them to be good at. It's like if you punished a good roleplayer that was up-staging the rest of the party by forcing them to play boring characters or something.
    1.I'm not suggesting a permanent rule. If it was permanent, I could see more cause for concern.

    2.That comparison to roleplaying is horrible! First of all, this is still gestalt we're talking about, so the characters won't be mechanically 'boring'. Second of all, Arcane Trickster is a tier -1 prestige class, and yet if you allow the player to enter by way of daggerspell mage or unseen seer, it is good enough to gain level 9 spells, and more skills than a single-class wizard can shake a stick at. Drop a Kung-Fu Monk on the other side of the gestalt and you've got something to work with. Its not like I'm suggesting that they'd need to take Green Star Adept all the way. Hell, Bloodstorm Blade is on the list of -1 PrClasses.

    3.I'm not suggesting "You players are not allowed to optimize", I'm suggesting "try optimizing these weaker options, just to see how good you really are".
    Avatar by Assassin89
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