D&D (2024) Can we have a discussion about the assumptions we make in terms of balance?


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billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
So let's ignore social stuff entirely and just toss that down the garbage chute it no longer belongs here gone forever.

Imagine trying to climb over an obstacle with athletics, or just use: Dimension Door, Misty Step, Fly, Spider Climb

Imagine trying to cross a pit or ravine trying to get a rope across, or just cast: Dimension Door, Misty Step, Fly, Spider Climb, Wall of Force, Wall of Stone.

Imagine trying to get somewhere far away by riding there, or just cast: Teleport.

Imagine trying to block a passage building a barricade, or just cast: Wall of Force, Wall of Stone

And contrast this with the pathetic level fighter 20 which has no higher movement speed unless he specifically spent feats to do so, something which a caster does not need to do. I mean no wizard will skip out on Dimension Door, Misty Step and Fly.

The Echo Knight is sort of good at some of these because of the teleportation ability. Champion? Absolute trash.
When it comes to our assumptions about balance... are we really worried about things the whole party can (and usually does) benefit from when it comes to wizardly solutions?
Yes, you might be able to teleport somewhere rather than go on a traveling adventure. But since everyone benefits from it, is it really something that we need to care about for balance? Moreover, teleporting instead of going on a traveling adventure is pretty much a whole-party decision - so while having the wizard with teleport in their spell book enables the option, is it really a significant balance question? It's not like the wizard is teleporting everyone as a unilateral decision...
 


MuhVerisimilitude

Adventurer
When it comes to our assumptions about balance... are we really worried about things the whole party can (and usually does) benefit from when it comes to wizardly solutions?
Yes, you might be able to teleport somewhere rather than go on a traveling adventure. But since everyone benefits from it, is it really something that we need to care about for balance? Moreover, teleporting instead of going on a traveling adventure is pretty much a whole-party decision - so while having the wizard with teleport in their spell book enables the option, is it really a significant balance question? It's not like the wizard is teleporting everyone as a unilateral decision...
Ok I'll give you another limitation. Let's assume that the caster is alone. It's a one-man party.

Imagine trying to climb over an obstacle with athletics, or just use: Dimension Door, Misty Step, Fly, Spider Climb

Imagine trying to cross a pit or ravine trying to get a rope across, or just cast: Dimension Door, Misty Step, Fly, Spider Climb, Wall of Force, Wall of Stone.

Imagine trying to get somewhere far away by riding there, or just cast: Teleport.

Imagine trying to block a passage building a barricade, or just cast: Wall of Force, Wall of Stone

And contrast this with the pathetic level fighter 20 which has no higher movement speed unless he specifically spent feats to do so, something which a caster does not need to do. I mean no wizard will skip out on Dimension Door, Misty Step and Fly.

The Echo Knight is sort of good at some of these because of the teleportation ability. Champion? Absolute trash.

Yes you can attempt to construct weird "philosophical" arguments about how wizard class features aren't really class features because the whole party benefits which makes absolutely no sense to me.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
Yes you can attempt to construct weird "philosophical" arguments about how wizard class features aren't really class features because the whole party benefits which makes absolutely no sense to me.
It's not a question of them not being class features. It's a question of whether or not they're really relevant to balance questions. Teleport may option up options in travel, as might astral projection, and Mordenkainen's magnificent mansion may open up a world of comfort in party travels that a fighter can't match. And my response is: is this really relevant since they effectively become party resources?
 

Amrûnril

Adventurer
One place I think a lot of discussions go wrong is an overemphasis on precision and an underemphasis on uncertainty.

When estimating damage, for instance, one needs to make assumptions about parameters like enemy AC and saves, rest frequency, encounter distance, and frequency of concentration checks. Arguing about the "right" values for these parameters, or citing decimal-precision calculations based on a given parameter set, is ultimately misguided because the appropriate values will be different at every table and in every encounter. Hypothetically, one could present in-game results as a probability distribution, but doing this in a mathematically rigorous way would require data collection and statistical analysis at the level of an academic publication rather than a forum post or youtube video (and would still require debatable assumptions).

What's far more helpful to balance discussions is isolating the specific tradeoffs (or lack thereof) that distinguish competing options and considering whether those tradeoffs are fair. When comparing the Champion and Battlemaster, for instance, calculating overall DPR is less informative than asking how many attacks per rest it takes for improved crit to break even with superiority dice and how reasonable a number that is.

If one does find a metric of in-game effectiveness desirable, though, it's essential to recognize that such calculations may differ from what's happening at the average table, and that what's happening at other tables may in turn differ from that average. This may be unsatisfying, but honestly communicated uncertainty is a far better foundation for a discussion than falsely confident precision.
 

Amrûnril

Adventurer
When it comes to our assumptions about balance... are we really worried about things the whole party can (and usually does) benefit from when it comes to wizardly solutions?
Yes, you might be able to teleport somewhere rather than go on a traveling adventure. But since everyone benefits from it, is it really something that we need to care about for balance? Moreover, teleporting instead of going on a traveling adventure is pretty much a whole-party decision - so while having the wizard with teleport in their spell book enables the option, is it really a significant balance question? It's not like the wizard is teleporting everyone as a unilateral decision...

I would say yes: teleporting the party feels like something a specific character has accomplished, even if the whole party benefits (the same is true of healing, and even damage, which are definitely factors we consider in class balance). Access to the ability is also a factor that players will consider when choosing between classes, and a party with access to the ability will be able to accomplish things that are impossible for a party without it.
 

Tony Vargas

Legend
A wizard gets better at everything when they level up. You have noticed that every spell I listed was a higher level spell. It's something they could not do at a first level. This too was deliberate. The champion, by contrast, doesn't get better as they level up. They barely gain any features and nothing they do changes their capabilities in a radical way.
It does seem like a feature of 5e design.
In another thread, there's some discussion of 5e BA and the way it (fails to) represent getting better at specific skills. BA is a big design feature of 5e, it makes the game simpler, because you add fewer & smaller numbers, and it keeps the game fair, because DC for tasks from climbing a rope ladder to climbing the Matterhorn can be kept in a range that allows everyone to try and maybe get lucky and succeed in spite of putting little into it, or get unlucky and fail in spite of investing in it, /and/ it keeps monsters relevant since low-level monsters can never be entirely ignored, and high level ones are never unhittable (also in service to that last bit, to keep it fair, so everyone can take shots in every combat, everyone has the same proficiency bonus added to their attacks, as well as skills).
Spells, OTOH, in the interest of making magic really magical and making D&D feel like D&D, returned to the 9-level paradigm, with spells grown from mage hand, and firebolts, to Meteor Swarm and Wish.
 

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