D&D 5th Edition How much should 5e aim at balance?





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  1. #1
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    ° Ignore shadow

    How much should 5e aim at balance?

    I've heard a lot of talk on these boards about ways to "balance" 5e. Having thought about it, I'm beginning to wonder what is meant by the word "balance". Some people seem to think that balance means that every class should have exactly the same damage output in combat (e.g. If a wizard of a certain level can do a 10d6 fireball, then a fighter must also be able to do a 10d6 martial attack). Others seem to suggest that balance means ever class should be completely equal in all situations (not just combat). No matter what happens it seems that there are always complaints about balance (witness the countless revisions and errata regardless of edition).

    I'm beginning to think that a perfectly balanced game is an untenable holy grail. Rather than try to aim at absolute balance, I think that 5e should just try to make an exciting game that captures the feel of D&D without worrying if certain options are slightly overpowered or underpowered. Please don't get me wrong, I don't want to see options that vastly inferior to the rest or extremely overpowered spells or feats. I'm simply saying that I'm more concerned that the game captures the fun and feel D&D than I am with precise mathematical balance in every single area of the game.

    Your thoughts?
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  • #2
    I think if you aim for depth, fun, and believability you tend to fall into balance by accident.

    Sadly, the reverse is not true.
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  • #3
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    ° Ignore Mustrum_Ridcully
    I want all classes to shine in all of their 3 pillars of the game. That doesn't require them to do exactly the same, but they should have meaningful contribution in every area of the game.

    I would like to see the idea of "roles" maintained and supported in all areas of play, without necessarily requiring classes to be straitjacketed to them - just certain design features build with a certain distinct role in mind, and selecting them becoming stronger at that role (without gaining for other roles).

    Part of that balance model is "niche protection". If a Rogue is stealthy, then only other classes that have "stealthy" as their niche should compete. A Wizard, for example, does not have the niche "stealthy" - so he should not be able to outperform stealthy classes. He may be able to augment them (for example, if he has a "support" role), maybe he even can, temporarily get a very limited ability to also be "stealthy" - but the "stealthy niche" character should always be better then him. Yes, that means Invisibliity must be inherently inferior to having a decent Stealth - and if that requires something like "Hide In Plain Sight" as a class feature, that's okay with me, and if it's not with everyone else, then Invisibility is unfortunately no longer on anyone's spell list, except stealthy spellcasting classes.

    If the Fighter doesn't have the niche "area control", he doesn't need that 10d6 Fireball. But when his role is "melee damage", then his damage better is sufficient that it's not rendered moot by 10d6 Fireballs. If his niche is "melee range control" (aka Defense), then he better have abilities that serve this purpose and help him there and not allow the "area control" to make his shtick superfluous.
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  • #4
    Anything better than 3E's atrocious level of balance would be a good start. Editions prior to 4E, and 3E in particular, are some of the least-balanced games of all time. Acknowledging that problem and being willing to make significant change to the game's traditions to correct that balance is important. Talking about the impossibility of "perfect" balance or the best definition of balance is missing the point when discussing a game that has historically been utterly broken regarding any possible definition of balance.

    Basically, if the game revolves around a certain class or group of classes, and everything else is secondary and trivial in comparison no matter what the circumstance, then there is a big problem with the game. Every class should be able to have an equal amount of influence on the pacing and strategy of an adventure and the overall effectiveness of the party. Every player should be on an equal footing with every other player. The details of that will likely be in flux, but that is the most important goal to start with.

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    ° Ignore Grydan
    Quote Originally Posted by shadow View Post
    I've heard a lot of talk on these boards about ways to "balance" 5e. Having thought about it, I'm beginning to wonder what is meant by the word "balance". Some people seem to think that balance means that every class should have exactly the same damage output in combat (e.g. If a wizard of a certain level can do a 10d6 fireball, then a fighter must also be able to do a 10d6 martial attack). Others seem to suggest that balance means ever class should be completely equal in all situations (not just combat). No matter what happens it seems that there are always complaints about balance (witness the countless revisions and errata regardless of edition).
    Very few people who actually desire balance ever take either of those viewpoints, in my experience. They tend, instead, to be caricatures of balance put forward by those who think balance is somehow a bad thing.

    I'm beginning to think that a perfectly balanced game is an untenable holy grail. Rather than try to aim at absolute balance, I think that 5e should just try to make an exciting game that captures the feel of D&D without worrying if certain options are slightly overpowered or underpowered. Please don't get me wrong, I don't want to see options that vastly inferior to the rest or extremely overpowered spells or feats. I'm simply saying that I'm more concerned that the game captures the fun and feel D&D than I am with precise mathematical balance in every single area of the game.

    Your thoughts?
    Perfection is always unattainable. This is hardly news to anyone, I should think. However, striving towards perfection can be a very useful and effective strategy.

    I'm concerned about fun too... and that's why I desire balance.

    It's not fun, for me, to be the player playing the class that's supposed to be the toughest combatant when another player's class gets a class feature that's tougher than your entire class.

    It's not fun, for me, to be the player playing the class that's best at dealing damage when other classes can bypass the HP system entirely, making your efforts meaningless.

    It's not fun, for me, to be the player playing the class that trades a very minor marginal advantage in one pillar for being miles behind in the other two, especially when no other class seems to make anywhere near as dramatic a trade-off.

    These are balance issues. They can be fixed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ahnehnois View Post
    I think if you aim for depth, fun, and believability you tend to fall into balance by accident.

    Sadly, the reverse is not true.
    Balance is rarely ever achieved by accident.
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  • #6
    Balance is damn important, and absolutely will not happen by fortuitous accident.

    There really is no good excuse for a game to be released in this day and age that is not balanced except for sheer developer incompetence. Excusing bad balance is just that: making excuses for obvious problems.

    In any case, balance has always been made into a scapegoat in complaints about the direction of D&D. I am honestly convinced that the majority of the people who complain that balance is bad are either complaining about other, completely unrelated issues they have with a game, or are hopelessly stuck in a singular mindset of how the game must be.

    For example, it is perfectly fair to criticize 4E for having classes that are insufficiently differentiated. In of itself, that is a completely independent concern from the desire for balance.

  • #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Grydan View Post
    Balance is rarely ever achieved by accident.
    I'd go a step further and say that balance is never achieved by accident.

    Balancing a game is a process. A long, difficult process that even the best in the field can fail at. Ignoring it outright leads to things that simply don't come close to what I would call balance. Getting balance by accident is the game design equivalent of winning the lottery.

  • #8
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    ° Ignore Blackbrrd
    Quote Originally Posted by Mustrum_Ridcully View Post
    ...

    Part of that balance model is "niche protection". If a Rogue is stealthy, then only other classes that have "stealthy" as their niche should compete. A Wizard, for example, does not have the niche "stealthy" - so he should not be able to outperform stealthy classes. He may be able to augment them (for example, if he has a "support" role), maybe he even can, temporarily get a very limited ability to also be "stealthy" - but the "stealthy niche" character should always be better then him. Yes, that means Invisibliity must be inherently inferior to having a decent Stealth - and if that requires something like "Hide In Plain Sight" as a class feature, that's okay with me, and if it's not with everyone else, then Invisibility is unfortunately no longer on anyone's spell list, except stealthy spellcasting classes.
    Personally I think wizards should be able to be just as sneaky as rogues or clerics just as beefy and up-front as fighters. At the same time I want them to have sacrificed enough to no longer be a spell-slinger or healer.

    In 3.5 Dragonlance I played a Cleric/Knight of the Crown/Sword/Rose who in a single combat had one role: either fighter or healer. Trying to do both in a single fight was a waste of resources. Typically the character needed multiple rounds of spell-up to get up to the level of a fighter.

    My character above had a lot of flexibility, but lacked slightly in the raw strength of the parties Fighter. As a direct-damage spellcaster, he was outdone by the Wizard. As a healer, he was outdone by the parties pure cleric. What he gained was the ability to be a buff-bot, healer, direct damage spellcaster or a awesome fighter - but not at the same time.

    Regarding your example about invisibility, it doesn't help so much to be invisible if you can't sneak as well and at really high levels in 3.5 monsters have 30+ in spot and have no problems noticing invisible characters. They won't see the Rogue with 40-50 in hiding/move silently though.
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  • #9
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    ° Ignore n00bdragon
    Balance is extremely important. When I make my own homebrew games I balance things. When I buy a game off the shelf I do not balance things and the idea that I should is pretty insulting to me as a customer.

    If you want me to buy the game you cannot have options thrown into the rules with no regard to whether they are fair, fun, or usable. I can make that at home all by myself.

  • #10
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    ° Ignore Mercule
    I would be okay with 1e levels of balance. I'd appreciate more balance, for sure, but I want them to focus on fun. All too often, it seems, the two are confused.

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