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5E Less about the numbers and more about the concept: Judging classes in 5th edition.

Corpsetaker

First Post
Now this is my personal opinion and observation.

Something that I have noticed is when judging classes and their worth there is still the 4th edition mindset where it was more about the math than the concept. 5th edition doesn't come across as being about the math but more about the concept which is what my group and I are more about. I see people complaining about the PHB Ranger but my only complaint is that it's concept isn't up to par.

I know people are free to judge classes anyway they like, but when a system is designed around a certain perception of them is it right to judge them based around the math and say a particular class needs to be changed just because it doesn't meet that criteria?
 

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Nagol

Unimportant
Yes, it is appropriate because if the maths fail that typically means one of two things: the rule set doesn't support the concept appropriately (the rule set implicitly or explicitly forsakes this concept) or the design is subpar (either too powerful or too weak) compared to the other implemented concepts.

Note this applies to all types of implemented concepts: classes, races, spells, equipment, creatures, downtime options, whatever.
 

BoldItalic

First Post
Different people play the game different ways. Some people treat it as a combat game with narrative flavour; other people more as a narrative game with occasional combat. Most of the classes work equally well either way around, but somehow Ranger has never quite come right in that way. WotC are still trying.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
For some people, numbers mean things, the same way that words or images do. If a class concept is described one way, but the numbers paint a different picture, that's just as confusing as when the artwork doesn't match the verbal description.
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
Numbers are numbers. Concepts are subject to opinions. You can think 10 is good and someone else can think 9 is good, but both will agree that 9 is 9 and 10 is 10. Beyond that, concepts based on flawed math are often flawed concepts.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Numbers are numbers. Concepts are subject to opinions. You can think 10 is good and someone else can think 9 is good, but both will agree that 9 is 9 and 10 is 10. Beyond that, concepts based on flawed math are often flawed concepts.

Seems like numbers are opinions too, in this context, because almost always, people using the numbers only use it in limited white room scenarios based off their opinions, and never seem to factor in how the actual game is actually played. I'm a software analyst in real life, and we have a saying, "Garbage in, garbage out." I.e., if you're entering in flawed data, your result is going to be flawed. That, combined with how everyone views the numbers with differing importance, and you have what others have said: Some people judge based on math, some based on feel, some based on narrative, etc. Neither is any more right than the other.
 

Xeviat

Adventurer
Supporter
Design should start with a concept. But the numbers should support the concept.

The Toughness feat in 3E is a good example of this. The concept is your character is tougher. Who doesn't want to be tougher? I want to be tougher, so I take the Toughness feat. It makes me noticeably tougher at first level, even raising my fighter's HP by 25%!

Then I realize 4 levels later that I wasted a feat and my DM says I can't change the feat, so I let my fighter die and make Fighter 2.

Another example was some combination of the 3E Ranger, Two-Weapon Fighting, and the Weapon Finesse feat. On paper, this looked like it would be fine. The concept was sound. My player wanted to play a whirling dirvish like Drizzt, though he went with short swords because he was a wood elf and wielding machetes sounded cool.

And then the barbarian who put no feats into combat outshined him in every combat encounter.

The numbers need to back up the concept. Hyperbolically, the "You're Cool and the Best" feat makes you really cool and the very best, but without good rules behind it, it doesn't play out in play.


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Corpsetaker

First Post
Yes, it is appropriate because if the maths fail that typically means one of two things: the rule set doesn't support the concept appropriately (the rule set implicitly or explicitly forsakes this concept) or the design is subpar (either too powerful or too weak) compared to the other implemented concepts.

Note this applies to all types of implemented concepts: classes, races, spells, equipment, creatures, downtime options, whatever.

Nobody said anything about balance. This is about judging classes based on the math.
 



Schmoe

Adventurer
Nobody said anything about balance. This is about judging classes based on the math.

I'm confused. What does it mean to judge a class based on math if you're not doing a mathematical comparison of one class or option against another? Numbers in isolation are meaningless.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
Nobody said anything about balance. This is about judging classes based on the math.

All maths judgements are about some form of balance though not always direct comparisons between different implementations. Maths results on their own are meaningless. Meaning is only gained through context -- typically comparison with results taken from some other aspect of the rule set, but also through basic play expectation.

For example, if the concept is that of a character type that swarms his enemies with a multitude of summoned minions, none of which would pose a threat on its own, but the hypothetical game system only allows each character one 'action' which can either be taken by the PC or a controlled minion, then the math suggests the concept implementation is a failure for any game with the expectation of multiple PCs even if the effective danger level to the PC and the effective success rate is the same as every other class implementation. The time taken by this implementation to complete a combat is so much greater than any other class that the implementation breaks the expected combat paradigm.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
All maths judgements are about some form of balance though not always direct comparisons between different implementations. Maths results on their own are meaningless. Meaning is only gained through context -- typically comparison with results taken from some other aspect of the rule set, but also through basic play expectation.

.

This is probably a better way of explaining what I was trying to say earlier. While yes, math is objective, how it's used is subjective and someone's opinion, therefore, the result is subjective and someone's opinion. Ergo, using math isn't any better of a metric than someone's opinion on how something feels, or how it works narrative, etc. The only real metric is, "does it work for you at your table?" We as a group (gamers) tend to over-analyze everything we can get our hands on, IMO.

For example, let's say someone says, "2+4+8 = 14. You can't argue with that. And 5+8 = 13. So obviously there's no balance there because 14 is more than 13." The subjectivity of that is how you're choosing your numbers. Maybe in someone else's game, 4 never comes up, but 3 does. So for them, it's 2+3+8 compared to 5+8. So while the numbers are objective, it's flawed to look at them in a vacuum because they change depending on playstyle preferences and other things that may occur or not occur in a game session.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
This is probably a better way of explaining what I was trying to say earlier. While yes, math is objective, how it's used is subjective and someone's opinion, therefore, the result is subjective and someone's opinion. Ergo, using math isn't any better of a metric than someone's opinion on how something feels, or how it works narrative, etc. The only real metric is, "does it work for you at your table?" We as a group (gamers) tend to over-analyze everything we can get our hands on, IMO.

For example, let's say someone says, "2+4+8 = 14. You can't argue with that. And 5+8 = 13. So obviously there's no balance there because 14 is more than 13." The subjectivity of that is how you're choosing your numbers. Maybe in someone else's game, 4 never comes up, but 3 does. So for them, it's 2+3+8 compared to 5+8. So while the numbers are objective, it's flawed to look at them in a vacuum because they change depending on playstyle preferences and other things that may occur or not occur in a game session.

Sure, but larger variances can become objectively "wrong" in the sense they skew the game compared to other implementations.

For example, assume a class whose concept is to travel alone through the wilderness for a days at a time and returning to safety to restock and refresh occasionally. Let's give that class d100 hp per level to reflect its resilience. It is subjective to say that's wrong. It is objective to say that the percentile dice for hp is way out of line with any possible peer comparison.
 

There's always been people who look at the classes and think "the numbers on this one are just outright better. I'll play that." People who just want to kick butt and think mathematically besting the game is the way to "win".

I did that for a while during my Palladium days. Lot less balance there, so it was easier to build Ultimate ass kickers. Didn't make those characters any more fun at the table...
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Sure, but larger variances can become objectively "wrong" in the sense they skew the game compared to other implementations.

For example, assume a class whose concept is to travel alone through the wilderness for a days at a time and returning to safety to restock and refresh occasionally. Let's give that class d100 hp per level to reflect its resilience. It is subjective to say that's wrong. It is objective to say that the percentile dice for hp is way out of line with any possible peer comparison.

Well, sure. But I find 99% of the things in 5e don't really fall into that level of variance. We tend to get caught up in balance discussions that are only balance issues in certain playstyles under specific scenarios, rather than something that is universally way out there.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
Well, sure. But I find 99% of the things in 5e don't really fall into that level of variance. We tend to get caught up in balance discussions that are only balance issues in certain playstyles under specific scenarios, rather than something that is universally way out there.

Yeah, 5e does look like the designers did a good job with the initial maths across the rule set for their expected type of play. The dissatisfactions among the player base tend to be styles outside the bounds of expected play and/or confined to specific preferences. Even the classes with the most complaints still look OK.
 

BoldItalic

First Post
The Unhurried Ranger was biding his time, hiding his capabilities behind a cloak of misleading numbers. His enemies underestimated him. Even his friends underestimated him. But quietly, oh so quietly, he was gaining power. He had grit. He had resolve. Above all, he had patience. He oiled his longbow, gazing into the gloom of the forest that surrounded him. Orcs would fall to his arrows this night.

Let others deride his calling. Such cries were but feathers in the wind. In a far-off future, he would wield the Sceptre of Annúminas and re-unite the kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor. It was his destiny. It was written in Book Three. But there was no need to make a song and dance about it. His time would come when it came. Festina Lente. He was The Unhurried Ranger.
 

clutchbone

First Post
I know people are free to judge classes anyway they like, but when a system is designed around a certain perception of them is it right to judge them based around the math and say a particular class needs to be changed just because it doesn't meet that criteria?

Yes, for the average player. Most of us want to feel like we held up our end in a team game, which is often impacted by the mathematical aspects of a class.

This isn't quite what you asked, but I think it's relevant. Some people get disappointed on principle by sub-par game design (i.e. mathematically balanced classes fleshed out with interesting concept themes), and feel let down if they think that Wizards of the Coast has approved and sold them shoddy workmanship.
 

Arilyn

Hero
Doing nitty gritty math, and running the numbers is a large part of the nuts and bolts of game design. It is especially true in crunchy games like 5e, and yes 5e is still very crunchy, compared to systems like Cortex Plus or Fate. In DnD, players are given pieces in which to build their character. Most players are not looking for perfect balance between the pieces, but they don't want to feel they have chosen poor ones, and fluff which does not match the mechanics can be annoying. In more narrative style games there is room for your concept to have flexibility. It is the strength of these games, but requires more initial creative input when making characters, and requires more creativity at the table. F20 games have the advantage of players picking from pre-designed pieces. There are rules for discrete actions. Feats and class features help define your character's abilities and choices in their world. Numbers matter, and getting them right is the foundation of elegant game design.
 

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