Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday Question

There has been a lot of posts about game balance lately so I am going to taking the lazy way out and pose that question here.  Is game balance an important part of your game?  But I also want to see what your answer is as a player, not just as a GM.

Since I am a player right now I'll answer from that side of the screen.  As a player nothing would be more boring for me to know that all the encounters were balanced for my/party's level.  I like that challenge of figuring out way to get around or trick tougher opponents or be tricked into thinking "oh, these guys will be cake" and charge.  Then find my ass on a silver platter.

If you've played for any length of time, when the GM says its this monster you can dial up the page of the Monster Manual in your head and have a good idea of its HD, AC ect.  So the players can assess fairly quickly if they plan on chopping away or sneaking away.  But I love the challenges where I know I am way outnumbered or out powered and finding away to defeat that foe.  One of the simplest examples I can think of is there is a bridge over a wide creek.  But there is a troll guarding the bridge.  If you can guess at his riddle then you may pass unharmed.  Wrong answer and he eats your head.  Why not just cross the creek the bridge spans?  Because there is a small army of orcs and ogres that aren't in the mood to talk and will just shoot things at you until you are chum.

As a GM it depends on the group I'm running.  If I have a newbie group like I was running earlier in the year I would run balance, but challenging encounters.  I want them to learn the game and adjust to the threat levels of different monsters.  I may put a big bad monster over yonder and if they stray to close I may have it scorch someone to show death is a very real possibility in the game and I'm not afraid to use it.

Old time gamers, I don't worry about game balance one bit.  I throw in critters I think make sense for the adventure.  If could be they only get half way through and encounter something they have no chance of defeating, but then return when they are a little stronger and take it on again.  Plus the old dudes I play with are very good at circumventing/manipulating/influencing a bad situation in their favor.  I think they would get very bored if I level the playing field.

So whatta ya think?  Go game balance or no game balance?  That is the Friday question of the week.

Other blogs the are talking about this same subject:
Beedo of Dreams of the Lich House  
And Mr. 2000cp himself, Erik of Tenkar's Tavern


  1. I like balance to be there, but it doesn't have to be perfect. Heck, I played Rifts for years and that's far from balanced, but we still had loads of fun.

  2. "Yes," "No," and "Maybe."

    Tim, my thinking is about the same as yours on this.

    I had to laugh when I read this, considering when you were DMing our AD&D 1e group this last year our low-level group was up against a cult of child-stealing shapechangers who were unearthing a...(wait for it)...a tarrasque!! The only balance was that it took them a few sessions to dig it up...of course, we had a blast playing.

  3. One of the best campaigns I ever ran was taking a 1st level party into the Rod of Seven Parts campaign in second edition. It was originally designed for level 10-12 PCs and I changed very little aside from being more open minded to creative PC solutions. They succeeded in the adventure and everyone had ridiculous fun even though it was obviously not "balanced".

    I agree with your player perspective that knowing every encounter is balanced-ish is just kind of boring. As a player I want variety - hordes of orcs my high level character can pound or crazy hard opponents that require me to use every ounce of creativity to defeat, plus everything in between.

  4. I think it's important that the game be "perceived" as balanced. That's one of the things I like about the d20 system. As a GM, if the monster is proving to be too tough, or not tough enough, you can alter things on the fly. As a player I like to know what I am up against, and I like to feel that my character can handle the challenge (that's the whole point of RPG's, IMHO). That being said, I get pretty excited when I find myself saying "#%@$ - it's not dead yet?!?!"

  5. I like a little balance, but not perfect balance. There is little better than a knock down drag out fight that ends up with the party battered and bloody, but victorious. Of course random chance means that sometimes a fight like this won't go the party's way, and I'm okay with that.

    Encounters that are out of this range aren't as interesting. Fighting too-low-level encounters isn't much of a challenge. the party is going to win, and they probably won't use up much in the way of resources. I'm okay if some of the fights are guaranteed wins as long as it takes some cost to win.

    Encounters that are too deadly for the party can be fine once in a while, but I don't like them as a staple. Part of it is the feel of gaming. I like to play a hero, not a mouse that needs to hide from a world filled with cats.

    I understand about finding creative solutions to powerful foes. When it's once in a while, that's fun. When it's too common, the creative aspect goes out the window. you end up seeing lots of variations on a few old plans.

  6. I'm currently in the camp that says that the players' characters are not the center of the game world (even if they are the center of the game), and that the world should be balanced against itself but not necessarily against the characters. The players should be given the opportunity to develop clever solutions to difficult problems that aren't just "I hit it with my axe". They should also be given legitimate consequences to their decisions on a strategic level, rather than being presented with simple tactical problem after simple tactical problem.

  7. A "balanced" game rewards character skill. An "unbalanced" game rewards player skill. I think if you want your players to improve and gain in skill, they need to have reason and opportunity to hone those skills. The more "unbalanced" the game is, the more they need those skills and learn to use them.

    I think the only difference between how I'd run things for newbies vs. veteran players is in the number and obviousness of the clues available to judge how challenging each situation is.

  8. My players would be a better judge of this than I am. I don't attempt to balance things in the sense of "x" number of level "y" PCs means they should encounter "x" number of "y" HD monsters. But I like to think that my game is balanced in the sense that nothing -- neither success nor failure -- is ever a foregone conclusion. Or put another way, it's not so much that the game is (or needs to be) balanced, but that the players can take it upon themselves to balance it by approaching problems sensibly, using good tactics, etc. They may encounter a foe that that they could never take out in a toe-to-toe fight. But the players can balance that out by good planning, dividing and conquering, ambushing, etc. In this sense the game becomes as balanced as the players make it.