Saturday, January 28, 2012

Picking Apart the 5E Class Seminar - Part I - Complexity & Balance

Greg: How complex or simple do you think classes should be?
Bruce: I think, we think that different classes should have different levels of complexity. If you want something easier to pick up, there should be a class for that, if you want something that's a bit more challenging or has a bit more going on, you should be able to do that out the gate as well. (If my admittedly poor knowledge of D&D 4e serves me, all classes had about the same complexity)
Monte: I would also add that we want different levels of complexity for classes. For example, if a guy wants to pick up a fighter and have an easy time of it, there should be options for that. But also, if another person wants to pick up a fighter and have lots of options and/or complexity, we want to provide that too. The base game is the foundation. If you opt in to character development options, you can get complexity. (I’m figuring there is a default feat / power / ability progression built in, or you can opt to pick your own progression choices.  I’d hope that the default progression is fairly optimal, so those that aren’t into such details don’t get too hosed)
Rob: There was discussion of complexity parity in the classes. There's a baseline complexity, but can add as needed.  (This sounds way too much like 4e for my tastes)
Greg: Do you want to talk about some of the ways that this could be accomplished? 
Monte: Sure. So for example, if your fighter goes up a level and would normally get some bonus damage or a bonus to hit, or something simple, then maybe instead you could choose to replace that with an option or options that allow you to do some cool moves that allow you to push people around, or protect your allies a bit more, or control the battlefield a little more(These are definitely from 4e.  If you add these options to your character, aren’t you almost requiring the use of a battle map?  Wasn’t the use of a battle map supposed to be optional in D&D 5e?  I’d like to see how they propose to get these conflicting goals to work)
Rob: Even in the core you have varying levels of complexity within each class. Even the wizard has a base starting point that is less complex than what you can get into if you opt into some of the options.  (The question will of course be - does less complex mean less powerful / less optimal?)
Greg: This conversation leads into the talk of balance. Is it important that classes are equally balanced? And how does that look - would that focus on damage output and number crunching?
Monte: (Joking) The assassin, the wizard, and the warlock should all just be better than everything else.
Bruce: If all classes are putting out the same damage, there's no difference.   (This is good to know.  I’ve been deathly afraid that al classes would be contributing the same to combat - that was never the case until 4e) We definitely want the classes to be balanced, though having things exactly mathematically balanced isn't always the goal. (Once you step away from mathematical balance, you more from board game to RPG - or that’s my opinion) Different classes or different play styles will shine at different moments, though of course we want everyone to be able to contribute in the common situations like combat (which is as it should be, but some should be better at combat, others at stealth, others at knowledge, or finding things, etc) 
Greg: When you're talking about non-numerical class stuff, how do you figure out balance?
Bruce: If the fighter is 100% damage for example, then maybe this other class is 80% damage/combat and 20% exploration, or some other mix of game elements. Each class has its time in the spotlight, and not all classes are built expressly for combat (This is the best sentence I’ve read from either seminar.  They DO understand what Dungeons & Dragons is)
Rob: You may look at a class and see that it's damage output isn't as high as another class, for example maybe the bard doesn't do as much as raw damage as the fighter. That other class will have other options, like charm person or something that fits into that class's niche and will give that class different options, but still equally useful in combat, exploration, or roleplaying. If the Fighter's damage is the baseline, and Bard is 70%, the Bard has extra stuff (spells, etc) to give variety. We find damage equivalence between offensive and other types of spells. Charm Person roughly 105 points of damage.  (I really hate the number crunching aspect of this, because I hate to see an RPG brought down to hard numbers like some MMORPG Combat Damage Tracker.  Still, I appreciate the science behind the game design and getting a glimpse of the processes the designers are going through.  Even if it feels awkward to me.)

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