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).

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.

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.

The Enemy Within

Our intrepid adventurers are continuing their journey north to the glorious regional capital of Middenheim – the City of the White Wolf. Things have not been going smoothly…

Despite being drugged and kidnapped by members of the Cult of the Purple Hand they managed to escape and make a few new allies on the way. After spending some time at an archery tourney they decided to listen to the pleas of a small group of peasants from the nearby village of Delberz who were begging for help in dealing with Beastman raids. Compassion and the fact that Delberz is on the way to Middenheim anyway caused them to take up the cause.

The adventurers soon found the Beastmen raids to anything but typical. A brief daylight incursion into the thick forest surrounding the village almost cost the life of one party member and that same evening the Beastmen displayed a level of tactical aptitude not usually seen in such fell creatures. This may be due in part to the Warrior of Chaos spotted by the adventurers directing the Beastmen attacks.

Despite the odds the party prevailed the first night’s attacks with two seriously injured and a the villagers encouraged by their courage and valour in the face of dire odds. However as the dust settles and the sun rises certain questions are coming to mind…how and why is a Warrior of Chaos leading a group of Beastmen just four or five days ride from the regional capital and why haven’t the local authorities done anything meaningful to help the good people of Delberz till now?

Balance in Roleplaying Games

If I had to pick one thing that is most important when dealing with roleplaying games, it is this: Balance.

Balance is everything. Balance is the reason for the system. Additionally, this should be inherent in the system, not something that you add later on. It is not OK because you can change the rules, just like my car is not OK without an engine just because I know how to build an engine. I’m not going to just shrug my shoulders when the dealer hands me an engine-less car.

Every system suffers from this.
D&D: Not all feats are equal.
Able learner (everything is a class skill) is clearly superior to various feats which make 2 or 3 things a class skill.
Menacing Demeanor (+4 intimidate) clearly superior to Skill Focus(Intimidate) (+3 to intimidate).

Warhammer suffers from this.
Flee! gives you +1 movement, for D10 rounds, under special circumstances.
Fleet footed gives you the same, for infinite rounds, any circumstances.

They cost the same. They aren’t worth the same. Sure, fixes can be applied (Lets make it +D10 movement for 1 round. The total is the same, but the advantage is the headstart you get, which is exactly what flee should be).

However all this is doing is building the engine for the car you bought. Do I like to homebrew? Of course! Do I like to customize? Absolutely, but I’m changing my automobile (because I want to) to this:

I’m not fixing it (because I have to) from this: