Should the game be "balanced" and what does that mean?

MGibster

Legend
The social and exploration pillars always go neglected.
I think one of the reasons the social pillars get ignored is because some classes just aren't good at it. If I sat down and he told me his campaign was going to be full of interactions with NPCs and it would be important to form social bonds with them, I'm not making a Fighter. I'm probably going to make a character with Charisma as their main attribute like a Sorcerer, Bard (sorry Snarf), or a Warlock or at the very least something that gets a lot of skill points like a Rogue.
 

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Reynard

Legend
I think one of the reasons the social pillars get ignored is because some classes just aren't good at it. If I sat down and he told me his campaign was going to be full of interactions with NPCs and it would be important to form social bonds with them, I'm not making a Fighter. I'm probably going to make a character with Charisma as their main attribute like a Sorcerer, Bard (sorry Snarf), or a Warlock or at the very least something that gets a lot of skill points like a Rogue.
That's a failure of the design. If each pillar was equally important, character generation would provide resources for each pillar, not make you choose between them.
 

payn

Legend
I think one of the reasons the social pillars get ignored is because some classes just aren't good at it. If I sat down and he told me his campaign was going to be full of interactions with NPCs and it would be important to form social bonds with them, I'm not making a Fighter. I'm probably going to make a character with Charisma as their main attribute like a Sorcerer, Bard (sorry Snarf), or a Warlock or at the very least something that gets a lot of skill points like a Rogue.
Yeah, the fighter isn't very good at exploration either. I think the dominate on pillar design needs to be rethought if the game is going to acknowledge three of them. This is an area that no edition has been great at balancing.
That's a failure of the design. If each pillar was equally important, character generation would provide resources for each pillar, not make you choose between them.
Yeap, I suggested a bunch of fighter options in a thread a few months ago. Things that give them an edge with military folks and law enforcement. Some type of leadership ability that gives them a place in the social pillar. Not sure if I came up with much for exploration at the time or not.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
IMO, everyone implicitly agrees that a game must have some degree of balance - for example: no one wants there to only be CR 20 dragons in the world for the level 1 PC's to fight. That's not balanced!

Since this establishes some degree of balance is to be strived for, the real question is how balanced should the game be? I'd say a game should be balanced around the characters having strengths and weaknesses and that it's easy to create encounters that challenge any given weakness while not making a PC feel targeted or totally useless for doing so. As an example 5e does this really poorly for melee PC's (flying/ranged enemies) and allows casters to overcome their weaknesses far to easily (single level multiclass dip for martial AC and single feat to shore up most of their biggest weaknesses (constitution/concentration saves).
 

payn

Legend
WotC just offloading the work of providing GM advice to new folks onto the internet is one of my biggest peeves with their strategy.

Aside from that they just need a DMG2 or the equivalent of the PF Gamemastery guide: a deep dive into all the procedures of the game and how to apply them to everything from courtly intrigue to mass combat to item creation to domain management. The game is poorer for just presenting adventures and ignoring all the other, often much cooler, stuff players can be doing.
There appears to be a large number of folks just fine with what the rulebooks provide. Even in this thread, posters seem to not understand what folks want beyond it. I agree with you, but there doesn't seem to be a drive to produce it. Maybe that's once bitten, twice shy of the splat era? Maybe, Paizo doled out their GM options because they had to introduce new territory on an older system? Maybe, WOTC is keeping that option in their back pocket when sales slow? Not sure the reason, but it might bring old dogs like me back if they start making it.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Yeah, the fighter isn't very good at exploration either. I think the dominate on pillar design needs to be rethought if the game is going to acknowledge three of them. This is an area that no edition has been great at balancing.

Yeap, I suggested a bunch of fighter options in a thread a few months ago. Things that give them an edge with military folks and law enforcement. Some type of leadership ability that gives them a place in the social pillar. Not sure if I came up with much for exploration at the time or not.
Honestly, fighter is too broad a class for a simple design. Broad classes need ample mechanical choices to mold them into something more specific and 5e fighters are the 'simple class'.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
That's a failure of the design. If each pillar was equally important, character generation would provide resources for each pillar, not make you choose between them.
If you could make a character 3x as good at combat by sacrificing social and exploration then that would theoretically work fine, it's just the fighter at best is slightly better than some other classes at combat (and he's arguably worse than most of the naturally charismatic classes).
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Yeah this is the video that ends with the manticore example, and the video itself talks about the difficulty of building encounters and making monsters that have a predictable CR. In terms of balance, I think I would still ask why an encounter needs to be balanced, and what does balance means. It seems to mean that you can play the monsters without fudging dice, and provide a challenging minigame that nevertheless reliably results in PC victory as long as they are decently tactical. While I agree that encounter building could be more intuitive, I think it's an open question as to whether balance in that sense is a valuable design goal.

The other point in the video is that the DMG and supplements should have reliable subsystems for specific kinds of fantasy rpg things: magic item economy, crafting, strongholds, etc. That would be helpful! The dmg is a mess. Some of those rules might be better left to specific supplements (ship rules in GoS, war rules in the upcoming Dragonlance).
IMO, all one has to do is consider a game where level 1 PC's always fought CR 20 dragons to realize why that is a valuable design goal.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
This, this, this, a thousand times this.

I have only been GMing with this edition, since 2015. Learning how to GM is/was very difficult, and is a perishable skill, especially early on. Figuring out how to balance different player expectations, the nebulous rules of exploration and social interaction, when rewards should be given out, and how to pace the game should be done for me in the DMG. I shouldn't have to go trawling up youtube videos, hopping on tiktok, or digging into 50 year old forums in order to run the game.

Almost every single RPG in print right now indeed suffers this same flaw.
I was thinking about this the other day. It's not rare for a DMG to give examples for certain scenes - a chase is a common one. But I think it would be a good idea to have short examples of other typical scenes - a or warlock infiltrating an enemy camp, a sneaky rogue doing the same, an ambush, a lock opening scene... it would help a lot I think.
 

MGibster

Legend
That's a failure of the design. If each pillar was equally important, character generation would provide resources for each pillar, not make you choose between them.
I'm in agreement. At least with combat, every character class can easily make meaningful contributions to defeating the bad guys. And while each class can certainly roleplay and support social encounters in some way, the rules don't really offer a whole lot of support for that. I've had many games where those playing Monks, Fighters, Rangers, and sometimes even the Rogue (depending on build) essential sit out of social encounters specifically because their characters aren't "good" at them when the other classes outshine them. I'd like to say that's just stinkin' thinkin', but their not entirely wrong.

I think every character should be good at talking to NPCs. Maybe not all NPCs, maybe just a select group of them (soldiers, other students of the arcane, members of their neighborhood, nobility, etc., etc.), but good at talking to someone. Role playing is what separates D&D from table top war games or board games. If you're going to have players sit out of social encounters because their not good at them, you might as well play Descent or Warhammer Quest.

Yeah, the fighter isn't very good at exploration either. I think the dominate on pillar design needs to be rethought if the game is going to acknowledge three of them. This is an area that no edition has been great at balancing.
I guess the Druid and Ranger are pretty good at exploring. Who else?
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
If you could make a character 3x as good at combat by sacrificing social and exploration then that would theoretically work fine, it's just the fighter at best is slightly better than some other classes at combat (and he's arguably worse than most of the naturally charismatic classes).

I would say that I feel that the 5e fighter has better "out of combat support" than many prior editions because of the backgrounds. A fighter can be a sort of backup ranger or rogue for example. Some of the subclasses also help.

But it's still a sparce kit compared to some other classes. And that's why the ranger (well, phb ranger at least) or the monk have gotten flack for being weak in combat - if they were as good as a fighter, why would you ever play a fighter?!?
 

Undrave

Hero
I'm in agreement. At least with combat, every character class can easily make meaningful contributions to defeating the bad guys. And while each class can certainly roleplay and support social encounters in some way, the rules don't really offer a whole lot of support for that. I've had many games where those playing Monks, Fighters, Rangers, and sometimes even the Rogue (depending on build) essential sit out of social encounters specifically because their characters aren't "good" at them when the other classes outshine them. I'd like to say that's just stinkin' thinkin', but their not entirely wrong.
The worst part is when they use Intimidate as an exemple of a skill you can misuse and cause a situation to get worse and it's often the only one a Fighter or Barbarian gets naturally....

It's too easy to make things worse if you're not good at social stuff, to the point where you prefer to sit back and stay quiet.

A lot of people who, coincidentally, might enjoy D&D are also prone to the same attitude in real life... so that doesn't help.
 

What is balance, in the TTRPG sense? It is:
  1. Defining the purpose and intended experience of play in clear and useful language,
  2. Forming specific, testable design goals based on the previous definition,
  3. Writing provisional rules which seek to implement those design goals,
  4. Setting ranges of acceptable performance for meeting those design goals,
  5. Performing rigorous, thorough testing, preferably statistical in nature,
  6. Modifying the rules from step 3 where they fail to fall within the ranges from step 4,
  7. Repeating steps 3-6 until no further areas remain which are outside the parameters, OR until you come to believe the design goal you set is not feasible, at which point, return to step 2 and revise that goal, then proceed as before.
Any game which performs these functions will, by definition, be balanced. This does not guarantee that it will be a good game, nor a game that is enjoyable. Those qualities are bound up in the decisions the designer must make, that is, they are about making wise design choices and correctly identifying what players value about the gameplay experience.

Balance cannot make a poor game idea good. But imbalance can make a great game idea fail. That is the crux of design: you must have an idea worth pursuing and a solid execution of that idea. Stumble in either part and you lose.
 

Reynard

Legend
If you could make a character 3x as good at combat by sacrificing social and exploration then that would theoretically work fine
I disagree. if the game is designed around those 3 pillars, then each character needs to be able to equally contribute to each of those pillars. In such a game, social and exploration would be just as important as combat and so making yourself useless in the others to be awesome in one would, at best, be bad form. I remember many arguments during the 3E era about whether it was okay to create suboptimal characters fir "roleplay" purposes.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I would say that I feel that the 5e fighter has better "out of combat support" than many prior editions because of the backgrounds. A fighter can be a sort of backup ranger or rogue for example. Some of the subclasses also help.

But it's still a sparce kit compared to some other classes. And that's why the ranger (well, phb ranger at least) or the monk have gotten flack for being weak in combat - if they were as good as a fighter, why would you ever play a fighter?!?
The thing is, outside specific builds using the -5/+10 feats, the ranger and monk tend to be just as good in combat as the fighter for most of the game.
 

I disagree. if the game is designed around those 3 pillars, then each character needs to be able to equally contribute to each of those pillars. In such a game, social and exploration would be just as important as combat and so making yourself useless in the others to be awesome in one would, at best, be bad form. I remember many arguments during the 3E era about whether it was okay to create suboptimal characters fir "roleplay" purposes.
The thing is the three pillars aren't equal in terms of how much contribution is needed at once or the consequences for a weak link. Everyone fights and fights are to the death. Meanwhile if one person scouts that's normal - and one person leads the talking. And both rarely directly lead to death.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I disagree. if the game is designed around those 3 pillars, then each character needs to be able to equally contribute to each of those pillars. In such a game, social and exploration would be just as important as combat and so making yourself useless in the others to be awesome in one would, at best, be bad form. I remember many arguments during the 3E era about whether it was okay to create suboptimal characters fir "roleplay" purposes.
I don't think so. Once upon a time I played in a party that the DM had houserules benefiting a particular character that made the PC very strong in combat. I mean like SS+SBE+Precision attack battlemaster strong with no investment whatsoever. I had thought of making a more combat focused character, but instead I made a non-combat focused sorcerer and it was really fun. In combat I spent most of my time failing at my attempts to grapple the enemies. So why exactly do you think it's necessary for all characters to contribute equally in all pillars?
 

Reynard

Legend
The thing is the three pillars aren't equal in terms of how much contribution is needed at once or the consequences for a weak link. Everyone fights and fights are to the death. Meanwhile if one person scouts that's normal - and one person leads the talking. And both rarely directly lead to death.
That's because D&D isn't actually designed around the 3 pillars. The vast majority of the design is directed at combat, with next to none pointed at the social pillar.
 

The thing is, outside specific builds using the -5/+10 feats, the ranger and monk tend to be just as good in combat as the fighter for most of the game.
I can't agree here. The ranger and the monk are good in combat at what they do. A ranger archer is about as good as a fighter archer. But rangers don't tank well and there's basically no good strength-based ranger while paladins out of combat are niche other than a decent charisma.

Also you talk about builds using the -5/+10 feats. The fighter should reach [Stat 20] with a combat feat by level 8; the ranger only gets there four levels later. Meanwhile the fighter archer gets their third attack at level 11. It's not really "specific builds" where an archer takes sharpshooter.

On the flipside I'd point out that the more recent fighter subclasses (Rune Knight, Echo Knight, Psi Warrior, Tasha's Battlemaster) don't actually lose to non-shadow monks out of combat.
 

payn

Legend
I don't think so. Once upon a time I played in a party that the DM had houserules benefiting a particular character that made the PC very strong in combat. I mean like SS+SBE+Precision attack battlemaster strong with no investment whatsoever. I had thought of making a more combat focused character, but instead I made a non-combat focused sorcerer and it was really fun. In combat I spent most of my time failing at my attempts to grapple the enemies. So why exactly do you think it's necessary for all characters to contribute equally in all pillars?
I know you didn't ask me, but I'm going to chime in on this. You attest to the problem itself with your caster example. You got to choose what the character was good and bad at. As a caster the character can focus on combat, exploration, or social. Often times, all three at later points in the game. The fighter doesn't get any choice in the matter. It's only combat for them. So, that sets up the class discrepancy issue the game has long been known for. Giving all classes some choice in how they contribute opens up variety and makes the game more interesting.

It is also not necessary for every character to contribute equally, but they should be able to contribute something in each pillar. I don't like sitting around while somebody else explores or socializes. Again, in your example, even the caster can occasionally grapple something and contribute. They may suck, but they are not doing nothing either. More importantly, the caster can change spells or gain new ones and stop sucking in combat organically through play if they like. Not so much for other classes.
 

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