D&D 5th Edition How much should 5e aim at balance? - Page 4





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  1. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by TwinBahamut View Post
    Offer your expertise? Isn't that a bit pretentious? You seem so eager to put your own opinions on a pedestal and dismiss everyone else's as "just an opinion"...

    ***

    First, balance is a property of the game's rules. If you think otherwise, then you don't understand what balance is.

    Second, if you think the claim that 4E is more balanced than 3E is an "opinion," then you don't understand what balance is.

    Third, if you think balance is about calculating an expected DPS value for its own sake (ignoring for a moment that the term DPS is ridiculous when talking about D&D), then you don't know what balance is.

    ***

    Again, if you don't understand where that statement come from, then you don't understand what balance is. I'm beginning to think you should stop plugging your ears to other people's "opinions" and start educating yourself a little.
    Ah. Now that I've been taught what balance is by an expert, I know better. I guess I'll stop with my foolish ramblings. I wouldn't want to be pretentious.

    Say, what is the official definition of balance anyway?
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  • #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ahnehnois View Post
    Because balance isn't a property of the game; it's a property of the DM and the group (and the game, to a lesser extent).
    Absolutely not. Not in a game with as wide an audience as D&D. You need a starting point, a common ground where every campaign starts. That common ground needs to be fair to all players of the game. From there, GMs can modify it to their heart's content and make it whatever they wish it to be. But at its base, to accomodate all playstyles and all players both new and experienced, the game needs a balanced core. This is the designers and developpers' job. It shouldn't have to fall on the shoulders of GMs and their group.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ahnehnois View Post
    Because your particular opinions about which game is the most balanced are not dogma and don't reflect anything but one person's opinion? Because starting the game from a perspective of calculating a DPS value for all characters and building the fantasy world around it doesn't create a believable ror engaging oleplaying game?
    But balance is an objective, measurable value. How can making sure everybody around the table gets a fair shake at being awesome make for a less engaging game?

  • #33
    Quote Originally Posted by The Choice View Post
    But balance is an objective, measurable value.
    Really? What the the units for balance? How much balance does Trailblazer have? More or less than Castles and Crusades?

    Not in a game with as wide an audience as D&D. You need a starting point, a common ground where every campaign starts.
    What you need is for that common ground to be a fictionalized, fantasy-styled version of reality. (Reality has a certain inherent balance to it, but can also be abused). Then everyone can create whatever they want within that reality. That's the common ground.
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  • #34
    Quote Originally Posted by Ahnehnois View Post
    Say, what is the official definition of balance anyway?
    It's complicated, but here's my stab at it.

    Balance basically means that the game is fundamentally fair and honest. If the game presents something as a choice, then that choice should be a fair choice that is equivalent to any of its alternatives. If the players make a choice, then the game shouldn't suddenly reveal that choice to be more powerful or less powerful than advertised. It means that everyone who has the same role in the game (typically "player of a PC" in D&D's case) should be treated equally well by the rules and not be unfairly punished or favored.

    Ultimately, balance means that everyone at the table should have the same chance to have fun. Beyond being the goal of balance, that is the very nature of balance itself. Asking for a game to be deliberately imbalance is the exact same thing as asking for the game to arbitrarily ruin someone's fun or to let one player ruin everyone else's fun.

    The actual way that balance is implemented is a much more complex discussion, but that's how I'd put it.

    If you accept my definition, then you'll see why people's claims that balance is the antithesis of fun seems incoherent to me. Balance is simply the union of the ideas that the game should be equally fun and fair for everyone. If you want imbalance, that means you want people to not have fun. Balance is not some mere tool for achieving fun; they are inseparable concepts that are almost so close as to be the same thing.

  • #35
    Quote Originally Posted by TwinBahamut View Post
    If you accept my definition
    I don't.

    Balance basically means that the game is fundamentally fair and honest. If the game presents something as a choice, then that choice should be a fair choice that is equivalent to any of its alternatives.
    So, if I take ranks in Profession (Dishwasher), those should be equivalent to ranks in Hide and Move Silently? That if I have a fighter with an ability array of 8/9/9/17/18/18, it should be equivalent to a fighter with 18/17/18/9/9/8? That if I do nothing but try to trip a gelatinous cube, the result of the battle should be the same as if I attacked it normally? That my halfling barbarian wielding a foot-long greataxe should have an equivalent fighting capability to your half-orc barbarian with a six-foot axe? That if I cast Magic Missile on the Tarrasque, it should be equivalent to casting Disintegrate? Those are choices.

    All choices shouldn't be equal; that defeats the whole point of having choice.

    If the players make a choice, then the game shouldn't suddenly reveal that choice to be more powerful or less powerful than advertised. It means that everyone who has the same role in the game (typically "player of a PC" in D&D's case) should be treated equally well by the rules and not be unfairly punished or favored.
    That sounds more like transparency than balance.

    Ultimately, balance means that everyone at the table should have the same chance to have fun.
    That's easily accomplished. Just give everyone the same PHB, and have the DM treat them all the same. Regardless of what's in it, everyone has the same chance to have fun. Not really the most useful criterion.

    ***

    In any case, as you say you're "taking a stab at it". The point is that balance is nothing more than an opinion.
    Last edited by Ahnehnois; Monday, 6th August, 2012 at 02:18 AM.
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  • #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwinBahamut View Post
    The big issue is that this whole "balanced around X" thing is a farce. It's an illusion.
    "Balanced by Encounter" is possible, but not required in 4E. No one has to play the game that way. That one may do so does not mean the game is imbalanced.

    I have run games and am running a game balanced on the campaign-level and not the encounter. I drop in balanced adventure module that I converted as it grows. It is possible and your labeling such a "farce" isn't kind. I could say M:tG balance is a farce, but I don't see how mockery is not a deliberate unkindness.
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  • #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by shadow View Post
    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).
    I've never seen anyone say either of those things. What post (or which poster) do you have in mind?

    I think many posters (including me) support reasonable parity of player effectiveness across the range of situations the game is intended to throw up (the 5e designers talk about the "3 pillars" of social, exploration and combat, though all we've seen so far is combat). As 4e has shown, this needn't be mechanical identity: the sorcerer in my 4e game does more damage in combat than the invoker-wizard, for example, but the invoker-wizard still matters, and makes a contribution (control, especially via condition-infliction) that the sorcerer can't.

    Quote Originally Posted by TwinBahamut View Post
    If game balance is built on certain fragile assumptions, then that just means the game is actually imbalanced for every single way of playing that doesn't fit those assumptions.

    <snip>

    In order to achieve genuine balance, rather than a fragile illusion of balance, then the game needs to be balanced for every way it is played. A game is balanced if and only if it doesn't break down and stop being fun for someone when something unexpected happens.
    I think it's reasonable for a game to take for granted that it will or won't be used in certain ways. For example, I don't think it's very important that D&D combat be balanced for bar-room brawls, or professional boxing or wrestling matches. The combat rules take for granted that lethal or near-lethal damage is being inflicted, and that is fine. (I know that 4e permits the last blow to be non-lethal, but this still won't produce very satisfactory sparring rules. It's one thing for a player whose PC drops an NPC using Burning Hands to declare "That NPC is only unconscious, not dead"; but it would nevetheless be absurd to have that PC use Burning Hands in a sporting duel - it is the player, not the PC, who enjoys the power to decide what "0 hp" means.)

    D&D has historically been narrow in other ways too. For example, "exploration" in D&D has almost always focused on a fairly narrow conception of dungeon exploration. Look at Moldvay Basic, for example, or Gygaxian AD&D: rules for secret doors, finding traps, listening at and opening doors, etc. But there are no rules for wandering around cities, for exploring and understanding museums or galleries, for plotting sea voyages, etc (which might be important in other games, say Cyberpunk, Cthulhu or a Pirate game).

    And in AD&D "social" is confined mostly to the loyalty and morale of soldiers. There are no rules for dancing, for fast-talking or the like.

    One thing I like about 4e is that it has working action resolution systems that are more expansive than these D&D traditions. And that, as a side effect, do deal with the unexpected better. Part of what lets them do that is there robustness as a framework (DCs by level, plus the skill challenge success/failure structure). If you are thinking of that as one feature of 4e's balance, I'll happily agree.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jester Canuck View Post
    I can't think about many RPGs that worry about balance as much as D&D. Most new games, even ENnie winning and nominated RPGs don't worry about balance as much as D&D.
    I'm not sure exactly what RPGs you have in mind. But D&D has certain features that make the balance of mechanical effectiveness across PCs especially salient: a strong emphasis on party play; and a strong emphasis on "failure is not an option, and the penalty for failure is death". This very mono-focused approach to the stakes of conflict in D&D mean, for example, that mathematical parity in action resolution matters more, and (say) spotlight balance determined independently of success or failure matters less.

    Design the game in such a way that failure matters less, and suddenly having an 8 CHA in social situations won't matter so much. Ssome games, like Burning Wheel for example, make players spend resources on PC disadvantages precisely because those disadvantages will mean those players get more spotlight time from their PCs - but Burning Wheel also has a much more relaxed approach to failure than does D&D - it doesn't generally result in PC death.

    Unfortunately, it seems to me that many of the same posters who are hostile to the importance of balance are also hostile to approaches to play that increase the range of stakes in conflict, and thereby reduce the prevalence of life-and-death stakes.

    Quote Originally Posted by TwinBahamut View Post
    Anyways, a lack of balance, pretty much by defintion, means that the game has less depth. A poorly balanced game has no depth. There are the good options, that everyone who knows anything about the system should take, and the bad options that no one should take. Imbalance removes all real complexity, variety, and skill from the game. If you want RPGs to have depth, then balance is absolutely critical.
    I agree with you. But I think that many posters who take the opposite view take for granted that the GM will exercise a very high degree of force not only in world-building or scene-framing but in the actuall process of action resolution, and thereby introduce "balance" or "depth" by the moment-to-moment exercise of fiat. (I don't know if this is true of @Ahnehnois , but in another recent post Ahnehnois did talk about the GM being responsible for creating the story, which suggests something along these lines.)

    I personally regard that sort of GM force as toxic (both from the point of view of a player, and a GM).

    Quote Originally Posted by TwinBahamut View Post
    Who said I disliked D&D? This is silly.

    <snip>

    4E is fun, totally an edition of D&D, is certainly balanced, and was explicitly omitted from my comments.

    Unless I missed a memo that mentioned how ENWorld was formally transformed into a forum for core-only 3E fans with no 4E discussion allowed, then I think I'm fine here.
    I missed that memo too, but a lot of posts seems to take it as a starting point!

  • #38
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    I don't usually dissect quotes, but when I do...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ahnehnois View Post
    So, if I take ranks in Profession (Dishwasher), those should be equivalent to ranks in Hide and Move Silently?
    Yes. If the ability to choose Profession (Dishwasher) is present it should be balanced with other skills. That doesn't mean it should be present but assuming it were.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ahnehnois View Post
    That if I have a fighter with an ability array of 8/9/9/17/18/18, it should be equivalent to a fighter with 18/17/18/9/9/8?
    Yes. Wouldn't that be cool to play a intellectually based warrior? Why shouldn't such a thing be viable?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ahnehnois View Post
    That if I do nothing but try to trip a gelatinous cube, the result of the battle should be the same as if I attacked it normally?
    Perhaps not quite so specifically but the choice to trip things in general should be balanced with hitting them or pushing them or grabbing them or lighting them on fire. Otherwise why offer it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ahnehnois View Post
    That my halfling barbarian wielding a foot-long greataxe should have an equivalent fighting capability to your half-orc barbarian with a six-foot axe?
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ahnehnois View Post
    That if I cast Magic Missile on the Tarrasque, it should be equivalent to casting Disintegrate? Those are choices
    Yes. The proposition of instantly killing something should be balanced with defeating it via damage.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ahnehnois View Post
    All choices shouldn't be equal; that defeats the whole point of having choice.
    No. Having unequal choices defeats the point of having choices.

  • #39
    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    I agree with you. But I think that many posters who take the opposite view take for granted that the GM will exercise a very high degree of force not only in world-building or scene-framing but in the actuall process of action resolution, and thereby introduce "balance" or "depth" by the moment-to-moment exercise of fiat. (I don't know if this is true of @Ahnehnois , but in another recent post Ahnehnois did talk about the GM being responsible for creating the story, which suggests something along these lines.)
    Well, I do expect to take an active role in action resolution (through circumstance modifiers and other similar moment-to-moment rulings), but really, balance is created by the DM deciding what actions there are to be resolved (which is probably more about world-building and scene-framing). That's kind of hard to get around.

    For example, if a DM designs a closed dungeon adventure with a lair guarded exclusively by golems, the casters are likely to be rather "unbalanced" due to lack of opportunity. If he designs a political adventure where combat is discouraged, the fighter is likely to feel rather "unbalanced", but the bard might suddenly feel overpowered. These kinds of things outweigh the basic action resolution mechanics.

    I personally regard that sort of GM force as toxic (both from the point of view of a player, and a GM).
    Never understood that. It's hard to see how a DM runs a game without exercising all kinds of discretion, whether he wants to or not.
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  • #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ahnehnois View Post
    So, if I take ranks in Profession (Dishwasher), those should be equivalent to ranks in Hide and Move Silently?
    Equivalent in what respect?

    Game design and distributions of expectations and authority matter a lot here.

    Two PCs with those different skills should probably have very different experiences - play should deliver different stories - but arguably the game should make either viable. Conversely, if - as is the case for D&D -the game has no way of making it viable to build a PC focused around Profession (Dishwasher) than probably that should not be put forward as an option for the expenditure of PC-buidling resources. (Which I think is at least parly what @TwinBahamut was getting at in talking about "choices not being false choices".)

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