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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How Important is Character Class Balance?

How important is character class balance between the various classes? Sure, were talking OSR gaming with this question, and for many the answer will be "who cares about balance?", but for the rest of you, how important is it?

In AD&D the classes are roughly balanced by the various experience point tables (and demi-humans are balanced against humans by using level limits.)

In LotFP, classes are balance by giving each class it's own niche, with little to no overlapping.

In Adventures in the East Mark, warriors get a d10 for HD while their two sub-classes get d8s - balancing extra abilities with HP potential.

I'm sure there are other examples, but I'm barely awake ;)

So, how important are balanced character classes to you in the games that you play?

18 comments:

  1. I prefer balance to suit the campaign with custom classes especially as i ditched xp as tedious. If undead rare then turning useless - if dm hard on back stab opportunities and ambushing then thieves useless - i was pretty upset in dragolance that clerics got no spells for a bit. Druids and rangers suffer indoors in some games - others are very usefull if giant slugs and bugs and bats count as animals

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  2. It does all depend on the campaign. As long as a class doesn't overshadow the primary functions of another class I don't have much against it. The model of some classes shinning brightests at low,mid, or high level is fine. How many classes is the average campaign actually going to see in play really? Balance for the game at large could be totally irrelevant to any specific campaign.

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  3. I don't worry about advancement balance. As a DM part of my job is to ensure that all of the players are engaged; whether the party is balanced in ability like 'Paul, John, George and Ringo' or there is a dominant character as in 'Paul McCartney & Wings'.

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  4. Balance should reflect the setting either implied or explicit. If this makes wizards and elves optimum mechanical choices so be it. But if wizards are an optimum mechanical choice the setting is not a magocracy or something similar, it is on the game designer to explain why and the options for handling this for the referee.

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  5. You already gave my answer: who cares about balance?

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  6. Class balance is as important as the players make it. If the players are hyper concerned about such matters, you get lots of complaints that so-and-so is unbalanced. if the players are not concerned about it, and OK that the Fighter kicks ass in battle, so long as the Bard gets to seduce the ladies and rock the tavern, then balance becomes irrelevant,

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  7. You know, it's funny. My wife is obsessed with "good stats" but she doesn't care about class balance. My kids are both more knowledgeable about the mechanics. They get that the wizard the the nuke and the fighters are walking sandbags. But they don't care to play "the most powerful" class. They play what they like, and therefore they like what they play.

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    1. As for me, I play the hirelings so I don't get a choice!

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  8. Balance is extremely important; imbalance creates boredom and deprives our choices of meaning. Ironically, some misguided approaches to balance produce this very result

    I second the notion that balance is campaign dependent. There's no such thing as universal balance, contrary to the aims of certain publishers. Balance can only be attained within a given context

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  9. I see balance as a mechanical solution to a social issue in the game, and as such is best left out of the rules. I believe it complicates class development, in complicates class testing and is overall effective in the segment (level, hp, & setting) it was tested in. In other words it's effective as long as players play in the sweet spot it was developed in and tested. Move away from that and things begin to break down.

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  10. Fun is the only factor I weight. If a class isn't as fun as another class, then it needs fixing. Usually that fix is mechanical (rules/crunch). But power, how many monsters can be killed in a round, damage in an attack, etc. isn't where I look.

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  11. Balance is important insofar as every player needs to feel that he/she is contributing in a meaningful way. Some players are creative and good at improvisational storytelling, and may not care if the game mechanics make their characters useful. The GM can help by creating interesting stories and encounters that engage all of the PCs, but ideally the system will help

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  12. Balanced Mechanics are VERY important to me as a GM.

    I don't want to have to fart around/tweek/secondguess/acommodate the rules system and monster/npc stat blocks to balance them when I feel I shouldn't have to.

    I want to focus on making exciting and interesting encounters, settings and scenarios for the players to go through.

    I want to be confident that if I throw say 10 Orcs at the lvl part it won't be a TPK, UNLESS that IS what I wanted to do.

    I want to be able to TRUST the system so that when I DO want to give the players an extra hard encounter they get one, instead of a cakewalk. And when I want to give them a Cakewalk they get one instead of being maimed by a monster.

    I want balanced mechanics not because I want easy mode for my RPG's. I want balanced mechanics so I can trust the system enough so that I can feel confident in the encounters and challenges that I build will actually turn out as easy or difficult as I had planned them to be.

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  13. "Balance" is one of those words I'd like to banish to the void along with "Immurshun" and "storytelling" when it comes to RPGs. Is the class fun to play and are the benefits and drawbacks interesting? are the only questions I want answers to as a player or a GM.

    4e was balanced as hell and look where that got us.

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    1. You and me both. I hate all those terms and especially the glib way they're thrown around.

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    2. You forgot the words "official" and "continuity" as subjects for banishment.
      Other than that, yeah, what you said,

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    3. 4e was "balanced" under a completely misguided notion of the term, a problem that's been infecting the RPG industry since at least 1983, when Roger Moore wrote Charting the Classes. Balance, in the classical understanding of the word, is all about those interesting benefits and drawbacks you mentioned

      If the subject we're all discussing is "balance" of the sort found in GURPS, 3.5/4E and the like, then put me in the "screw balance" camp

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  14. The only balance the group I play with cares about is MY balance as I walk back to the table from a trip to the fridge for yet another beer!

    OK, I jest (a bit). :-)

    Game mechanics balance is as important as a group wants to make it. For my group, anything that we think is egregious is simply house-ruled or ejected from the game entirely. That everyone is having fun is the most important balance.

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