What Constitutes Game Balance?



Jan 05, 2007 11:08:23
In the first five gazetteers in the Gaz F line, a handful of new optional classes have been introduced: single class elves (Wendar); thouls, dark lords/light elves, and Denagothian brutes (Denagoth), frogfolk (Northern Wildlands), and magician and hill giant (Western Alliance).

Over at Dragon's foot, the issue of game balance was recently raised with the last two. I'd be interested in hearing what others think of this. More precisely, what constitutes "game balance" for people in their own campaign?

And say, how is incorporating a large HD humanoid different than letting your first level party be led by a 4th-level fighter?

My basic rule of thumb was that a fighting critter should go toe to toe with your standard fighter of the equivalent XP value with both parties having a reasonable chance of winning. In a match of opponent A vs B, the combat strength of a character is

(% chance of hitting opponent)x(average damage inflicted on successful hit)x(hit points)

If the ratio of combat strengths is 1, then the two are perfectly matched opponents. close to 1, one combatant has an edge, and further away one is clearly dominant.

As presented in the Western Alliance, the Hill Giant from NM on had a slight edge against moderately strong (+1) fighters (equiv XP) in chain mail and at a slight disadvantage against strong (+2 or +3) fighters in plate mail and shield.

for spell wielders, I perfer to develop their power growth on an exponential model rather than the saturation curve used for standard MU's and Clerics. Except in the instances of specializations, access to standard spells comes at an equivalent XP level or higher.

So what do you all think about game balance?



Jan 05, 2007 18:18:44
I think the final judgement should be made on the basis of whether I would like to play the new class, and whether the new class would make me not want to use the old character classes. To me the Hill Giant looks balanced enough. The class has quite a few limitations beyond what is described given his size and the fact that he is a monster. The class would be interesting to play, but I still wouldn't consider the Fighter obsolete...



Jan 06, 2007 17:53:36
I my campaign, I consider balanced a PC who is unable to deal in a single blow more damage than his own hit point. Also at 1st level.
So, a 1st level PC able to deal 1d12+3 damage in a ingle blow and has 6 hit point is, in my standard, unbalanced. Becouse, to balance the game, I try to trow against him monsters of 3rd or 4th level. And he is unable to resist their attacks. So this character is unbalanced and I find him impossible to play in my campaigns.

That is based on my experience as dungeon master, since 1985...


Jan 06, 2007 18:00:15
I my campaign, I consider balanced a PC who is unable to deal in a single blow more damage than his own hit point. Also at 1st level.

Uhm, a first level wizard has 1d4 hit points. Armed with a quarterstaff, he can deal 1d6 hit points per round.
I think your rule might work for fighters, hardly for other character types.


Jan 07, 2007 1:54:58
My rule works also for wizards.
Let's immagine a party of 3 1st level wizards...
In the 1st room they meet 3 kobolds (old style 1/2 HD each), ans a sleep spell puts them in Morpheus kingdom. The 3 wizards are ok,but one of them is spellless.
In 2nd room they meet a styrge. A magic missile from the 2nd wizard and the encounter is over.
In 3rd room they find a magical trap, a detect magic from the 3rd wizard helps the trio to elude the danger.
In 4th room... they meet an orc... and they are dead!
Look, this dungeon is not unlike any B module, with stupid encounters.

So... a 1st level wizard is "unbalanced" becouse he can't survive long. He needs help from a "balanced" character, such as a fighter or a cleric. He is the weak ring in the party chain.
That's what I mean with "balanced".

In a party building up, I always hope my players don't all choose a wizard, and if they do (when the party is Glantrian it is easy), I try to direct them to multiclassed elves fighter/mage, to lycantropic PCs (in Glantri it is easy) or toward strange races, such as a minotaur mage (that's quite harder to explain in Glantri, but I remember Prudenzio, the minotaur mage son of a minotaur gladiator of Circus Lizzieni... a great character!).


Jan 07, 2007 3:15:34
In 4th room... they meet an orc... and they are dead!

Actually, I think probably one would die and they'd manage to kill a totally generic orc, since they likely have daggers or quarterstaves, and Joe the Generic Orc has around 4-5 HP.

But then they get killed by a wandering monster while resting.