So, Roleplaying huh?

Ok, so we’ve gotten sloppy this week when it comes to organizing games.

So, this Saturday, I’m busy.
This Friday and Thursday, I’m not busy.

Therefore, can we do a Friday game of (I assume) B5 this Friday at 4?

Is Nancy coming? Is Li coming? Is Norm free? Is Bashar in the country? Does skip have her char sheet ready yet?

(By the way, Norman, I don’t think she does have her char sheet anymore, so she says she probably wants a new character, leaving me as the only character left from the original game). I’ll send you an email on something else too.

As for Bashar’s game: I got you something cool Bashar… Well… I got me something cool, but you can borrow it. 😛

Balance in Roleplaying Games Part 2

Last blog update we talked about balance in roleplaying games.

Today, I’m going to talk about how to achieve balance in a roleplaying game.

First of all, here comes a warning: A good portion of this is going to be math.
A very good example of balance in my Opinion is the D&D critical system, and the “Improved Critical” feat.

There are 5 types of weapon in D&D when it comes to crits. You can increase the multiplier (x2, x3, x4), or you can increase the threat range (20, 19-20, 18-20).
x2
19-20/x2
18-20/x2
x3
x4

Now these are not balanced with each other, they are supposed to be different after all, but lets look at how they react to having “Keen” applied to them.

x2 Keened gives a damage increase of 4.5%. (210 -> 220)
19-20/x2 gives a damage increase of 9%. (220 -> 240)
18-20/x2 gives a damage increase of 13%. (230 -> 260)

Now lets look at increasing the multiplier.
x2 Keened, as we just saw gives 4.5% (210 -> 220)
x3 gives a damage increase of 9% (220 -> 240)
x4 gives a damage increase of 13% (230 -> 260)

As you can see, Keen does it’s job equally well irrespective of what style of critical improvement is caused, yet they do it differently. Do you want to do damage more often, or do you want to do bigger damage in single blows? Either way the total is exactly the same.

The balance doesn’t go overboard and make all weapons the same. You still have a sliding scale of weapons, that have 2 styles, and that are impacted equivalently between the two.

This in my opinion is the perfect feat when it comes to demonstrating balance within a game system.

“But surely Mr. Baalthazaq, you should be comparing it to other feats, not itself!”

This is partially true. Each feat should be balanced against other feats to see if the feat shown here is worth more than some other feat. Of course it should. How should this be done though.

Unfortunately, actuary tables for one thing. Statistical analysis. If I get +1 DC to my illusion spells, there is no damage I’m comparing it to. I’m basically saying “How much more often can I trick things”, and how do we measure that against extra damage from a weapon?

The second way of doing it is simply going “which would I rather have?”, which skips a lot of the math. If you are having a hard time deciding which to pick, we might be able to consider it as “close enough” to balanced that it is acceptable, but don’t think for a second that means you’re necessarily correct.

This poses a new problem however. You don’t create feats based on the math, you create feats based on a concept, and so you should. “I want to be able to backflip through a window”, not “I wish a statistically equivalent bonus to the character when near portcullises to offset the rarity of the event”.

There’s no way however that I’m going to think of a feat that gives me enough of a bonus in any way that it’s going to compete with something as simple as Improved critical.

One way around this is not using a feat system that occurs every few levels (like D&D) or one where all uneven Talents cost the same (Warhammer), but to value individual feats according to the usefulness.

You want to jump out of a window? 25XP.
You want to do double damage when you are on higher ground? 250 XP.
You want to do triple? 500XP.

This way our imaginations are not limited by the system, the system becomes a tool to enable our imaginations.

You want to have the Great Cthulu as your mount? Why say no to it? Say 500’000’000’000 XP, and let the player earn it.

“Aha! But then what will happen i…”

Not so fast, I was getting to that. When the other players are running around with 499999999000 spent XP that the player is still saving up, he’s going to be in a world of trouble until that last point.

So don’t make it a single feat. Let him build it.
Ride a mount: 100 XP.
Ride exotic mounts: 150 XP.
Learn Magic: 400XP.
Summon: 200XP
Summon Monster: 1000XP.
Increase summonable monster’s level: 1000XP*level per level.
Ride Monsters: 350 XP.
Give monster tentacles: 100XP per tentacle.
Increase Monster Size category: 1000XP*Size Category ^2.
Etc.

This lets him scale up his monster, and the things he can summon, slowly and on par with the other characters who can spend similar XP to do similar things. It doesn’t *have* to scale up to riding the great Cthulu, but there’s no reason to limit your system in that fashion.

It can be limited in play to determine what goes on:

If you’re doling out 5 XP per session, the players won’t be planning to get to their target in 38.5 million years of sessions (assuming we play every other week). They’ll be taking those 20XP feats like “+1% chance to hit” or “+1% Intelligence”.

The beauty of that is you have a system where the DM chooses the power level, not the system.
“I want gritty realistic modern detective story!”. Done.
“I want to play a Thor like character in a mythological story where we are the first gods!”. Done.

Cool story

So, I was reading through some stories on a thread called “great moments in D&D” and came across this little gem.

First of all Wild Mages: Wild Mages basically cast spells more powerfully, but the magic they wield has unpredictable effects sometimes called a “wild magic surge”.

In the coming story, the wild mage is Chaotic Neutral, and is secretly working for the bad guy.

The party were coming up against the big bad of the campaign, a scheming wizard who had taken control of most of the country. Player A, the wild mage was, as befitting a wild mage, chaotic neutral, and befitting a player who had confused chaotic neutral with jerk, he was about to screw the party over.

For the upcoming battle he had informed the big bad of their plans, and had convinced the party that he had a foolproof plan, that he would cast a spell specifically designed by the resistance in the country that would kill the big bad (long story.) Anyway, the betrayal comes in the final battle.

Player A passes note to DM: “I cast invisibility spell on the enemy instead”

Player A: NOW! See what happens to my enemies! (Casts spell)

(Predictably) Wild Surge (DM: *Giggle* Player A: Oh…)

Result: Roll 4 more times, all effects apply (DM: Teehee. Player A: Uh Oh….)

Results: Music plays in background, Target sex changes, All cloth on target turns to dust, Target knocked unconscious. (DM: Muahaha! Player A: Gah!)

Spell Cast! Result: Big Bad now an unconscious naked female. With some romantic music playing in the background.

Party: … this is so wrong …

All credit for this story goes to “Heads_or_Tails” on the Giant in the Playground forums.

Pathfinder

I’ve been looking fairly recently at Pathfinder, a game system extremely close to Dungeons and Dragons, but with (in my opinion) a significant number of improvements.

It is 100% compatible with D&D 3.0 and 3.5, but just has some nice fixes here and there. (Stealth being a single attribute in 4.0 was done long ago in Pathfinder. Class progression is usually smoother. Balance is shifted around a little).

Anyway, putting up a link to Pathfinder’s SRD, in particular, those familiar with D&D should look at how they’ve improved the Arcane Archer, and Arcane Trickster.

Most impressive however to me, is how they have changed Sorcerer as Rob was saying. There is now actually a reason not to take a prestige class when you’re a sorcerer. Before, not multi-classing as a sorcerer was ALWAYS a disadvantage, without exception.

I think if I ever run any D&D games from now on, it’ll be Pathfinder as the base system.

The First Post

Ladies and Gentlemen.

I have taken the liberty of setting up a blog to organize our shenanigans.
We’ve gone far too long trying to organize ourselves when we have nowhere to collate our information. This blog is an effort to end that.
Every week, I will be putting up a post regarding a specific session. We can all come here and look up or contribute to the details (which day will it be on, can everyone make it, etc). That is something we need, we’ve cancelled two sessions this month solely because we were unclear as to what was happening.
What else I’ll be doing is including updates on my campaign on the blog, putting up suggestions for other campaigns in the blog and just generally keeping everyone in the loop on what I’m thinking.
Finally, this blog I’m hoping can act as a catalyst or recruitment tool for getting a proper gaming/roleplaying society set up in Dubai/UAE.
I’m including all the tags we might use in the bottom of this blog to help organize future posts.