Why 3.5 Worked

Helldritch

Explorer
Combat could take that long. Depending on the style of your DM. I always discouraged the 5MWD so the most different buff you would see was about 10 to 12 spells/effects. Some were common to all characters, others were more of a personal nature. I reiterate that 3 different sheets were more than enough. Ho and is epic level 23 enough to warrant high level play? Because that is the highest my group ever rose in 3.x.

Yes I do remember combat taking 4 hours, some were even longer than that. But we never needed a spreadsheet for the bonuses...
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I submit that since classes were supposed to be roughly balanced, that differenting class power levels was also objectively broken. Even if, as you've mentioned, your table did not have a problem with it.
Do you have anything that says that they were supposed to be roughly balanced in 3e? I never heard anything like that and I have a hard time believing that anyone could think that casters were roughly balanced with non-casters.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I'm very confused by this. Many prebuffs lasted hours to all day. So they were spending resources to finish multiple battles in just a few rounds, and at a discount of both action economy and actual spell slots.

CoDzilla was a real thing.
3.5 didn't have many buffs that lasted hours to all day. Did you stick with 3e?
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Do you have anything that says that they were supposed to be roughly balanced in 3e? I never heard anything like that and I have a hard time believing that anyone could think that casters were roughly balanced with non-casters.
blink

Every designer of every edition of D&D talking about balance?

Sorry, this is like asking "is water wet".
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
blink

Every designer of every edition of D&D talking about balance?

Sorry, this is like asking "is water wet".
Can you quote one claiming 3.5 was supposed to be evenly balanced? They've mentioned balance, but never claimed it was evenly balanced or even supposed to be evenly balanced. They knew it wasn't balanced and designed it to be off balance to a degree. Hell, I remember one of them saying that weak feats were a design feature to reward system mastery.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Can you quote one claiming 3.5 was supposed to be evenly balanced? They've mentioned balance, but never claimed it was evenly balanced or even supposed to be evenly balanced. They knew it wasn't balanced and designed it to be off balance to a degree. Hell, I remember one of them saying that weak feats were a design feature to reward system mastery.
Sorry, I don't accept your arbitrary requirement that 17 years after release to have a quote handy for what is common knowledge that D&D designers attempt to balance character creation options like races and classes.

There's plenty of evidence that they were trying, with things like ECL instead of just letting you be a Minotaur like in AD&D 2nd. (As much as that turned out to not work well.)
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Sorry, I don't accept your arbitrary requirement that 17 years after release to have a quote handy for what is common knowledge that D&D designers attempt to balance character creation options like races and classes.

There's plenty of evidence that they were trying, with things like ECL instead of just letting you be a Minotaur like in AD&D 2nd. (As much as that turned out to not work well.)


It's clear that they knew the game was unbalanced and designed it that way so that people that wanted to could create great power disparities. Out of a designer's mouth.

And here they ID back in 2005 the strongest class and weakest race.

 
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Helldritch

Explorer
3.5 didn't have many buffs that lasted hours to all day. Did you stick with 3e?
The buffs he talks about are the reasons the 5MWD happened. Without the 5MWD, no CoDzilla. The problem was not the buffs per see, but the fact that with the 5MWD a fight supposed to challenge the players had to be on par with them. Then the players, having a rough time, had to buff themselves even more. In return, the DM had to push it a bit further in planning to challenge the players again and so on and on and on. No wonders some had to have a spreadsheet with all the buffs...

With a DM in control of the 5MWD, that is: "he eliminates it from his table"; the need for endless buffs dissipates. I know of some tables where every players had Bull's strength or Cat's grace or whatever other stat needed to be buffed. Then they would chant, bless, pray, haste, stone skin and many other possible buffs for one fight. And the higher the party, the more of these spells they would have.

One trick to end the 5MWD I gave to quite a few DMs is to have the vilain set up a room where the players will fight him. The villain will flee, leaving the players with his minions to fight. Then a few hours later, the villain knows the players do not have their buffs anymore and they are probably weakened. He then hunts them down. At high level, this can be deadly for the players. A lich launching meteor swarms at the same it did its own CoDzilla (a mage could do that too) will destroy the group. It could even clone/raise them and put them in stasis to prevent unwanted resurrection (after all, you can't raise what is already living, even if it is in stasis... or even sicker, transform them into ghouls. Now the group is toast...). The 5MWD had its place, once in a while. Who doesn't like a big bad brawl? But it had to be a sparse thing, not the norm. The 5 MWD being out of the equation, no need for spread sheets... (I hate Excel anyways...).
 

hawkeyefan

Adventurer


It's clear that they knew the game was unbalanced and designed it that way so that people that wanted to could create great power disparities. Out of a designer's mouth.

And here they ID back in 2005 the strongest class and weakest race.

I hesitate to jump back into this discussion, but I don’t think that Mearls’s comments quoted in that article are any kind of defense of the 3.x game design. He’s criticizing it for having conflicting elements. I don’t think he’s really talking about balance among classes, casters and non-casters.

He’s basically concluding that the game was broken.

As for something that states that the classes were meant to be balanced (even though they clearly were not), what about the fact that this was the first edition that used the same XP chart for advancing levels?

That seems a pretty strong indication of how they looked at the classes as being equally viable, I’d say.

Too bad, as Mearls explains, that as they continued to add elements to the game, they undermined that idea.
 

Helldritch

Explorer
I hesitate to jump back into this discussion, but I don’t think that Mearls’s comments quoted in that article are any kind of defense of the 3.x game design. He’s criticizing it for having conflicting elements. I don’t think he’s really talking about balance among classes, casters and non-casters.

He’s basically concluding that the game was broken.

As for something that states that the classes were meant to be balanced (even though they clearly were not), what about the fact that this was the first edition that used the same XP chart for advancing levels?

That seems a pretty strong indication of how they looked at the classes as being equally viable, I’d say.

Too bad, as Mearls explains, that as they continued to add elements to the game, they undermined that idea.
You're always welcome with your comments. It's always appreciated.
The part I made in bold characters explains exactly what happened. 3.5ed was fine at the start. It is all the added spells, options, prestige classes and what not that had been added over the years that broke the game. In fact, if you kept to the DMG, PhB, MM1,2 (and may be the others MM). The game was not broken at all. Some of the prestige class were so broken... and the added spells/feats/prestige classes in various supplement were coming out too fast to be fully play tested. This led to the imbalance the game knew.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I hesitate to jump back into this discussion, but I don’t think that Mearls’s comments quoted in that article are any kind of defense of the 3.x game design. He’s criticizing it for having conflicting elements. I don’t think he’s really talking about balance among classes, casters and non-casters.

He’s basically concluding that the game was broken.

As for something that states that the classes were meant to be balanced (even though they clearly were not), what about the fact that this was the first edition that used the same XP chart for advancing levels?

That seems a pretty strong indication of how they looked at the classes as being equally viable, I’d say.

Too bad, as Mearls explains, that as they continued to add elements to the game, they undermined that idea.
I don't agree. There were a few basic consistencies. The same exp chart and feats every 3 level. The individual classes were not intended to be equally viable. It's simply not possible for a halfway competent or better game designer to be unaware of the power disparity that he was designing.

Mears and company were trying to make some changes towards the center a bit, while still keeping with the general class feel of 1e and 2e. Casters being more powerful than non-casters.
 

hawkeyefan

Adventurer
I don't agree. There were a few basic consistencies. The same exp chart and feats every 3 level. The individual classes were not intended to be equally viable. It's simply not possible for a halfway competent or better game designer to be unaware of the power disparity that he was designing.

Mears and company were trying to make some changes towards the center a bit, while still keeping with the general class feel of 1e and 2e. Casters being more powerful than non-casters.
It depends on what “equally viable” means. I think that with the initial core content, they considered the classes to be relatively “equal” in the sense that each could be fun to play and could contribute in the game.

Were they aware that casters would dominate at high levels? Probably as aware as they were that non-casters would dominate at lower levels. Perhaps this is one of the balancing aspects they focused on?

That initial intent, however, did not hold up to the proliferation of mechanics that came with successive books. This is what Mearls is criticizing. The idea to have codified rules for everything...and then constantly expanding everything. Those two design choices are at odds.

This is why, from a design standpoint, the system is broken. This is Mearls’s conclusion.
 

jmartkdr2

Villager
Are there any examples of an rpg that is not broken?
Lasers and Feelings? Fate?

(Assuming "broken" here means "not balanced". Obviously the majority of games aren't unplayable.)

It's actually really easy to make a perfectly balanced game - just don't allow for character differentiation. But that wouldn't be fun.
 

Bacon Bits

Adventurer
Are there any examples of an rpg that is not broken?
No, but I think that depends on your definition of "broken", too. I don't think a TTRPG exists that doesn't have some fatal flaw or critical issue that means "you should probably not play it" for some group of players.

The interaction of all the myriad of elements in 3.x results in a pretty fatally flawed game experience, though it's at least a designed game compared to AD&D and prior editions and the major flaws can go for quite awhile if you limit optional material or have players who aren't interested in system mastery.

The base design of 4e is very good, but the "treadmill effect" is a noted problem and the complexity of combat can distract from the other elements of the game, too. The discrepancy between classes (e.g., Martial is fairly dominant, IMX) is storied and extensive.

Savage Worlds is simple and straightforward, but the system is built to emphasize pulpy campaigns and fast play, and there's a small math problem with exploding dice and successes. Namely, a target number of 8 (a double success) is easier to roll on an exploding d6 (13.9%) than a d8 (12.5%). The solution is as simple as substracting 1 from any die that has exploded at least once, but that's fiddley and nobody is ever going to do it because simplicity is the name of the game. Also the deck-of-cards-based initiative, while fantastic for Deadlands, is just cumbersome for a generic system.

Conan 2d20 is simple, but the round robin initiative combined with complication/doom/momentum/expertise/focus system seems to be built for the players to abuse. If you want the PCs to feel powerful and capable it's great, but that may not be the best system otherwise. The books are horribly arranged, too, and the rules in general are poorly explained. If there's one game that desperately needs a revised edition -- especially with magic -- it's Modiphius Conan 2d20.

Most Star Wars TTRPGs (especially d20 and SAGA) are fairly balanced... except that Jedi are almost always absurdly OP especially as you progress. And if you're not playing a Jedi, it kind of makes you question, "why am I playing Star Wars?"

Fate is a great game, but it requires players that want to have control over the narrative more directly, and that like the idea of Fate's collaborative character creation and campaign. I don't remember if you can even create characters later on after the fact, which is kind of a big flaw.

Dice pool RPGs (WEG d6, Shadowrun, Storytelling) are a lot of fun to roll, but a huge pain in the butt to manage and easy to make mistakes with. The Storytelling system in particular seemed to really highlight how awkward the system was because the only reason to play the game was the amazing lore. The fact that the game died after they "reset" the lore is a big sign of a fatally flawed game system.

5e D&D is simple (for D&D) and works fairly well, but it's not always very deep in spite of it's quantity of rules. Some of the design decisions (i.e., weak encounter difficulty due to short rest system) lead to sometimes questionable outcomes as well, and there's a few uneven spots where designs just don't work all that well (Beastmaster, polymorph, stealth). A focus on pre-published encounters that all play similarly (epic storyline covering entire campaign) can lead to samey-ness if you lack DMs that want to express their own creativity.

If you're looking for a perfect TTRPG, then I'm sure it doesn't exist. Like everything else, it's about tradeoffs. That's why your groups should play different games all the time.
 
The base design of 4e is very good,.. The discrepancy between classes (e.g., Martial is fairly dominant, IMX)
That's an interesting & unique experience. As much better balanced - free of LFQW & so forth - as 4e was compared to other versions of D&D, it still disfavored the Martial source in a few small ways. Lack of the controller role, for a significant instance, and less versatility to be found among its exploits (maneuvers) and not much beyond skills (which were the main thrust of non-combat Skill Challenges, of course) out of combat, most tellingly, of course, compared to Rituals (which, at least were more limited than they are in 5e). This isn't the thread for it, but I'd be interested in the form this dominance you experienced took?

It's actually really easy to make a perfectly balanced game - just don't allow for character differentiation. But that wouldn't be fun.
What's the practical difference between 1) a game that's so incredibly imbalanced that there's only one viable character 'build' and everything else is so utterly & obviously inferior to it's the only thing anyone ever plays, and 2) your hypothetical 'perfectly balanced' game that has no character differentiation at all?

Balance is a challenge because it offers up many choices, as many of which as possible, are both meaningful and viable.

Balanced games aren't automatically fun, nor are fair games automatically balanced. But, for a hypothetical game that's fair, and offers a certain number of choices, it's pretty likely that the more of those choices are both meaningful (that feel like the choice says something differentiating about the character and makes some difference in how you might play it, say) and viable (consistently contribute to success in the, presumably cooperative, game to the same degree as the alternatives, if in a very different way), the more fun it'll be.

3.5 was a very imbalanced game, of course. It was bedeviled by LFQW distorting class balance, the 5MWD distorting both class & encounter balance, and it was intentionally furnished with a mix of chaff, 'trap,' viable, and optimal choices that required significant system mastery to navigate. That said, while the conventional TTRPG of 3.5 D&D was badly balanced, the charop/level-up meta-game was engaging and, of course, fair, as was it's use as a PvP arena combat game.

The pendulum swung pretty far over on the side of balance in 4e, which was hopeless for PvP, and offered much lower rewards for system mastery in the charop/level-up meta-game (which could still be pretty engaging for build-to-concept), and did away with LFQW & reduced the impact of the 5MWD (even offered a couple of mechanisms contrary to it). That pendulum hasn't swung all the way back with 5e, the 5MWD can be a major problem again, but the DM has more latitude to force the very long day at which overall DPR theoretically balances, and while LFQW is back, it's not exactly badder than ever. ;) 5e, though, avoids balance not just by offering imbalanced options, but by simply offering fewer options, overall.
 
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hawkeyefan

Adventurer
Are there any examples of an rpg that is not broken?
I think in this regard....at least, as far as my use of the term... “broken design” doesn’t mean a game doesn’t function at all. It means the game doesn’t function exactly as intended or as desired.

The context in which I was trying to use it was that 3.X didn’t work as intended.

Every game has flaws, and every gamer will focus on certain flaws over others.

I feel like one is a little more objective than the other. Maybe not, but that’s how it seems to me.
 

jmartkdr2

Villager
What's the practical difference between 1) a game that's so incredibly imbalanced that there's only one viable character 'build' and everything else is so utterly & obviously inferior to it's the only thing anyone ever plays, and 2) your hypothetical 'perfectly balanced' game that has no character differentiation at all?
Practically? Nil. Non-viable options aren't worth anymore then non-options. If anything, non-options are better because they don't pretend to be options.

But, as you noted, any real game is going to land somewhere on a spectrum of "meaningful choices" and "equally valuable outcomes" - the two goals do work against each other. Finding the right balance is part of the art of design. (It's not the science because it's too subjective.)
 
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But, as you noted, any real game is going to land somewhere on a spectrum of "meaningful choices" and "equally valuable outcomes" - the two goals do work against each other.
I guess there wouldn't be much point to emphasizing meaningful and viable, if they always went together without effort. They're at least well capable of moving independently. You can have make a set of bland viable options more meaningful by giving them more interesting meaning in the fiction (and multiply them by letting the GM or player do so) without making them any less viable. You can 'nerf' a meaningful but OP option without taking away it's meaning - and you restore other options in doing so.

Thus 'balanced' is doubly apropos, I suppose.
 
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