Legends & Lore 09/03 - RPG design philosophy - Page 4


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  1. #31
    I wouldn't necessarily say that finding perfect balance in classes is boring.

    It's anal.

 

  • #32
    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    I think it is a potential mistake to assume that mechanical variations in resolution are the key to producing dramatic and rewarding differences in the fiction of the sort that you mention.

    For example, in my own experience 4e is quite good at producing those differences, despite the similar mechanical frameworks for PC build and action resolution. Better than classic D&D, to be honest. But even for others who have had different experiences, it doesn't follow that mechanical differentiation of the sort you describe is going to produce ficitonal differentiation of the sort you seem to want.
    Okay, how about this: some players want the ability to have their wizard carefully hoard his spells all day long, so that when a truly challenging fight comes along they can dish out incredible punishment every round. Some want to play a character who never needs to plan ahead further than where his axe is getting buried next round. For those two players to feel useful in combat at the same table while playing the way they want, they need a system that allows for mechanical variety (Vancian wizards and non-AEDU fighters), which they could have gotten from any edition before 4e; but they probably also need some semblance of inter-class balance, which they won't get past level 5 or so in any edition except 4th and, hopefully, 5th.

    This would be an example of mechanical variations enabling differences in playstyle at the same table, not (necessarily) rewarding differences in fiction.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ZombieRoboNinja View Post
    Okay, how about this: some players want the ability to have their wizard carefully hoard his spells all day long, so that when a truly challenging fight comes along they can dish out incredible punishment every round. Some want to play a character who never needs to plan ahead further than where his axe is getting buried next round. For those two players to feel useful in combat at the same table while playing the way they want, they need a system that allows for mechanical variety (Vancian wizards and non-AEDU fighters), which they could have gotten from any edition before 4e; but they probably also need some semblance of inter-class balance, which they won't get past level 5 or so in any edition except 4th and, hopefully, 5th.

    This would be an example of mechanical variations enabling differences in playstyle at the same table, not (necessarily) rewarding differences in fiction.
    Sure. But that seems to me a bit different from the examples that you gave upthread (and that Mearls gives in his column). This seems to be all about mechanical variations supporting different mechanical preferences.

    It doesn't tell us anything about spotlight balance, which is what you seemed to be focusing on before:

    two dozen enemy minions with a carefully-placed fireball, the fighter wading through melee without a scratch on him, the rogue taking out the enemy wizard with a single well-placed Sneak Attack.

    Mearls also seemed to be talking about spotlight balance:

    Additionally, the moment where a character does something notable is a moment created by localized imbalance. Its interesting when the wizard uses feather fall to allow the rogue to float silently on to a hill giants back and stab it in the back from above. Its heroic for a fighter to block a dungeon corridor and singlehandedly hold back a dozen ogres while the rest of the party retreats. We want our characters to shine.

    If spotlight balance is an important element of balance - and I think it is plausible that it is - the game needs to be designed to promote it, or at least to make room for it. And I think that achieving that is somewhat independent of variation in the build and resolution mechanics for class abilities.

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    Quote Originally Posted by billd91 View Post
    People have tried, at least on the individual scenario/case basis, and players seem to treat it as life or death anyway. Take, for example, an encounter with a rust monster. That's hardly likely to end in death, just the destruction of some gear. But you'd think the DM had kicked the players' puppies if that rust monster chows down on a decent sword or suit of armor.
    That's still fairly intimately connected to life and death though, both pragmatically - high level fighters, especially, tend to suck without their metal gear - and more metaphorically, if gear is seen by a player as part of his/her build.

    Quote Originally Posted by billd91 View Post
    Then there is the case of capture. It's pretty rare to see PCs surrender. They'd rather suffer a TPK, it seems, than surrender to their enemies.
    But their enemies can knock them out rather than kill them. I've used this as a nice alternative to a TPK.

    But when I was thinking of stakes other than death, I wasn't thinking just of gear or capture. I was thinking of other consequences that don't necessarily have immediate impacts on effectiveness, but matter within the fiction - honour, glory, shame, getting people to do as you want, or having them shun you, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by billd91 View Post
    These have always been part of the game and alternatives to PC/party death. Yet, players don't exactly embrace them. There may be ways to encourage it in the rules, I suppose.
    I think it is 100% possible to encourage it in the rules (eg the 4e rule that allows 0 hp to be treated as unconsciousness rather than death), and even moreso the GM guidelines for framing challenges and adjudicating failure.

  • #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    If spotlight balance is an important element of balance - and I think it is plausible that it is - the game needs to be designed to promote it, or at least to make room for it. And I think that achieving that is somewhat independent of variation in the build and resolution mechanics for class abilities.
    Disagree, though allow me to frame. In any mechanically light situation, such as a social interaction, exploration or meta-game plot realisation (you know, when you solve the mystery or connect the dots), characters can shine independent of the system used to create them. Even the low charisma, no social skills dwarf can say the right thing at the right time, because the player does so, and a poor subsequent dice roll will never take away an idea (let's offer this instead of this, then you, Paladin, do the persuading). These situations are those moments when the DM says, yes, that works, or, well done, have a +2 bonus for being smart, or, great job for listening to the detailed description of the room I gave earlier and looking in the right place.

    In a mechanically heavy situation, and you can't get much more mechanically heavy than 4E combat (3E comes a close second!), the way the characters are built makes a huge difference in their ability to shine. When built similarly, following the same structure, not differing too much in terms of defences and other numbers, it's difficult to shine in a unique way, to do something that nobody else could do, to solve a problem in a way that only you can. What it does instead is encourage strong teamwork, and synergy, for when both the fighter and mage are capable of locking down several opponents to help defend the rogue, they have to agree who does what and when. If there's been a fireball and everyone is injured, the party have to agree what healing resources to use.
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    "The game is about the adventures of fighters, rogues, wizards, and clerics, not a wizard and his or her lackeys."
    It's always great to see the man in charge repeating/promoting one of the core myths of the edition war...not.
    SIGH...
    I hope with strange eons even the edition war may die.

  • #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shadeydm View Post
    "The game is about the adventures of fighters, rogues, wizards, and clerics, not a wizard and his or her lackeys."
    It's always great to see the man in charge repeating/promoting one of the core myths of the edition war...not.
    SIGH...
    I think he's referencing his own experiences. Back in the day he played in a game of 2e AD&D, in which he felt his wizard PC became dominant to the extent that the other PCs were much like his sidekicks, or lackeys.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shadeydm View Post
    "The game is about the adventures of fighters, rogues, wizards, and clerics, not a wizard and his or her lackeys."
    It's always great to see the man in charge repeating/promoting one of the core myths of the edition war...not.
    Since when was Ars Magicia an edition of D&D?

  • #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Emerikol View Post
    Thats why it's snarky. No sandbox DM is going to allow a group to meet Tiamat. It's a strawman kind of argument.
    I didn't think it was snarky in the least. And I have done the rough equivalent of let low level parties meet Tiamat in the past; the key is to realise the consequences of goals and context.

    Look at Planescape, as a setting. If Tiamat meets a low level party, what is her aim? What advantage can she gain? If she kills the PCs, they go straight to their respective god(s) and join the holy forces. Net gain to Tiamat - nil (or even negative). But what if she can intimidate/force/trick the PCs into some act or belief that suits her purpose? Positive net gain.

    Given that (logical) outlook, a 1st level party meeting Tiamat can be fine - even a cool addition to the game, in fact. If the players are dumb enough to have the PCs attack her then, sure, they get wiped. But that's not a system or a DM problem - it's just natural selection in action.

    Quote Originally Posted by Emerikol View Post
    Edit: it's more a case of him describing my playstyle using the language of a detractor instead of a neutral voice. Thats all. I'm not like enraged or anything. Just annoyed and saddened.
    It begins to sound to me like what you want isn't a "neutral" voice, but some authority to big-up your play preferences as some kind of "validation". Maybe you are not very convinced of the validity of them yourself? Whatever - I can't see the "slur" here you say you see, to be honest.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ratskinner View Post
    I don't think that's a fair comparison. The PCs should be players on a team not competitors. So, while its important that the same rules apply to all the competitors in Chess, the various pieces on each side function differently. The different type of PC are more like the chess pieces than the chess players, as I see it.
    I bagsy playing the queen!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kamikaze Midget View Post
    Monopoly is also boring. It's not exactly Solved, but it is largely random who succeeds and who fails. Park Place is not balanced with Baltic Avenue. Add to that house rules that change the game around.
    It's a lot less random than many suppose, but, yes, not all the sets are equal. The orange set are the best on the board, by some margin. The randomness always gives variation, as it's supposed to, but you will win more games than anyone else in the long run with good tactics in Monopoly.
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    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton
    I think it would help for the designers to consider how a broader range of stakes, and less extreme failure conditions, can be made part of the game.
    Orthogonal or not, I think this is an area where we're in definite accord. IMO, the game works well when the failure stakes match the recharge rate, so if your party recovers everything after a day's rest, then by the time they take that rest, they should know some form of success or failure (not necessarily, but possibly, final).

    I think "death is the only punishment," combined with a more narrative gameplay style where character death should be an EVENT and not just a result of die rolls, is swimming upstream, and I think D&D could better support the story-heavy gameplay with different methods for success and failure.
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