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Discussing Sword & Sorcery and RPGs

Aldarc

Legend
@CapnZapp, a short reply to your long post regarding magic items boosting characters, flat progression, and taking items away: Have you looked into Index Card RPG? It's a stripped-down D&D game that was explicitly designed for that possibility.
 

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CapnZapp

Legend
Worlds Without Number has an interesting mechanic for this. And I believe it's completely independent of all other mechanics, so it could easily be dropped into any other games.

I am one of those people who, in their later years of their 30s, found that there's actually something to the idea that OD&D makes for a great Sword & Sorcery game. Precisely because there are so few rules and characters barely have any abilities.
Anything that doesn't have a specific mechanic restricted to special classes or character upgrades becomes something that everyone can do. A fighter who only gets hit points, saving throws, and attack bonus and nothing else actually becomes very flexible and versatile. It makes freeform playing the default mode, with mechanics for PC actions being restricted to a few special cases, like making attacks and casting spells.
Amen to that.

Thinking of Pathfinder 2, where you can't even climb a hill while fighting off Harpys without a specific (and easily missed) feat... even if you're a level 20 fighter!
 

CapnZapp

Legend
As a reply to recent posts:

I have found that the vast majority of RPGs don't even attempt system balance. D&D is by far the games put the most effort into this quality.
 

Aldarc

Legend
As a reply to recent posts:

I have found that the vast majority of RPGs don't even attempt system balance. D&D is by far the games put the most effort into this quality.
I would argue that D&D has to put the most effort into it because its system design, particularly in the WotC era and its emphasis on character builds, rewards system/rules mastery by the players. You are essentially lauding D&D for solving its own self-created problems.
 

Blue Orange

Adventurer
I would argue that D&D has to put the most effort into it because its system design, particularly in the WotC era and its emphasis on character builds, rewards system/rules mastery by the players. You are essentially lauding D&D for solving its own self-created problems.

There's also a much larger (huger or gianter, really) player base. There are whole subreddits devoted to optimizing D&D characters, and a lot of the changes in new editions are responses to the ways people found to exploit the older editions. (Caps on damage for spells? Concentration? However they nerfed CoDzilla?) There are much smaller groups of people trying to do that even for Call of Cthulhu, let alone indie games, so it's much less of an issue.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
You are essentially lauding D&D for solving its own self-created problems.
???

Balance is a solution, not a problem.

Most games I like are notoriously not-balanced.

In theory you have level-headed and impersonal players who make sure not to create characters significantly better than those of their fellow group members, but in practice the siren song of getting to be the hero always gets you in the end.

Much better if the GM can just hand out the rulebook trusting it's designers to not allow too-powerful builds. (Obviously the GM might still want to help newcomers into avoiding the inevitable clunkers)

And no, we don't focus our games around damage and combat performance only. A common tactic to try to trash the desire for balance in ttrpgs is to paint those wanting balance as roll-playing munchkins.

But you know what?

Everybody benefits from balance. If you're not interested or concerned about balance in the slightest then by definition you would find a balanced game just as good as an imbalanced one.

While people that do appreciate balance only finds the latter category suitable.

So while imbalanced games cater only to a portion of the market, balanced ones cater to everybody.

Then there's the argument "the desire for balance leeched the fun out of the game design". That's a fair objection; just take 4E and PF2 as warning examples.

5E however, succeeds to a significant degree because it strikes a good balance between fun, simplicity and balance!
 

pemerton

Legend
I have found that the vast majority of RPGs don't even attempt system balance. D&D is by far the games put the most effort into this quality.
I would argue that D&D has to put the most effort into it because its system design, particularly in the WotC era and its emphasis on character builds, rewards system/rules mastery by the players. You are essentially lauding D&D for solving its own self-created problems.
Adding to what Aldarc says: in what RPGs that are not either D&D variants, or Champions-style points-buy, is balance a problem?

Thinking of "old" RPGs: I've never heard of balance being an issue in RuneQuest. I believe from play that it's not an issue in Classic Traveller. In Rolemaster it's easy to get the balance you want by tweaking a few spell lists.

Thinking of "contemporary" RPGs: has anyone ever found balance to be a problem in Apocalypse World? Dungeon World? Burning Wheel? HeroWars/Quest? I've never heard of it.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Balance is a solution, not a problem.
Balance is a designer-created solution for a designer-created problem.

It's a bit like praising Exxon for its efforts and all the money it spent helping to clean up the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

There are some games that don't put in that much effort because they don't haul anywhere near as much oil to spill as to generate a potential environmental disaster.

Or even, there are a fair number of games out there that don't have to worry about balancing linear fighters vs. quadratic wizards because they don't design quadratic wizards in the first place.

Most games I like are notoriously not-balanced.
This may say more about you than the games in question. Simply because WotC era puts the most effort into balancing the game doesn't make it an inherently worthy endeavor. There are games that require less effort to balance than D&D because they are less prone to game-breaking spells, combos, builds, or the like. There are games where balance isn't fetishisized to the extent that it is in D&D, and yet they are likely more balanced than D&D 5e.
 

Adding to what Aldarc says: in what RPGs that are not either D&D variants, or Champions-style points-buy, is balance a problem?

Thinking of "old" RPGs: I've never heard of balance being an issue in RuneQuest. I believe from play that it's not an issue in Classic Traveller. In Rolemaster it's easy to get the balance you want by tweaking a few spell lists.

Thinking of "contemporary" RPGs: has anyone ever found balance to be a problem in Apocalypse World? Dungeon World? Burning Wheel? HeroWars/Quest? I've never heard of it.
Many Fate flavors are "everyone has the same number of skills, and the same number of each level..."
The use of the Pyramid ...
+5 ×1, +4 ×2, +3 ×3, +2 ×4, +1 ×5...
"advancement" in many of these is simply swap a skill at +X with a skill at +(X+1)
EG freido has Sword +3 and Blaster +2, and hits a milestone, so deciding he needs more blaster, he swaps them and now is Sword +2 and Blaster +3. He also later swaps his +1 pilot (and awarness 0) for Awareness +1 and Pilot 0.
It's not the same kind of balance, but it's a tyrannical one - not all skills are equally valuable in play, but are equal in Allowed Skill Levels. Picking wisely can be a big issue.

Star Trek Adventures and Dune (both 2d20 system games) have a fairly Similar issue. One can math-check STA characters in two sets of chain addition. All player characters have the same Attribute and Discipline totals at start.
The talent (~ Feat) selection tries to keep balance of mechanical interest.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Balance is a designer-created solution for a designer-created problem.

It's a bit like praising Exxon for its efforts and all the money it spent helping to clean up the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Okay, I stopped reading there. You are now officially preposterous. Good day.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Many Fate flavors are "everyone has the same number of skills, and the same number of each level..."
The use of the Pyramid ...
+5 ×1, +4 ×2, +3 ×3, +2 ×4, +1 ×5...
"advancement" in many of these is simply swap a skill at +X with a skill at +(X+1)
EG freido has Sword +3 and Blaster +2, and hits a milestone, so deciding he needs more blaster, he swaps them and now is Sword +2 and Blaster +3. He also later swaps his +1 pilot (and awarness 0) for Awareness +1 and Pilot 0.
It's not the same kind of balance, but it's a tyrannical one - not all skills are equally valuable in play, but are equal in Allowed Skill Levels. Picking wisely can be a big issue.
You're laying your thumb quite heavily on the scale there, mate.
 

Blue Orange

Adventurer
Call me naive, but what's with all these flamewars about game systems? I'm too cheap to play Warhammer, so what? Plenty of people like it and I appreciate the creative outlet of painting the minis. I think 4E is trying too hard to be World of Warcraft--maybe some other people like it, let them enjoy it. I think 5E's death saves make it a little too Disney--maybe when my current campaign is done I'll find a DCC group. If I don't like coffee ice cream I don't start a holy war against it...
 



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