Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mearls on game balance

I know what you're thinking, "Jeez, will you quit with all the game balance posts, already?" Well, what can I say, this post on Mike Mearls site has been getting lots of discussion on the blogs of late, so I'm just catching the zeitgeist. I agree with everything he says and I'm not sure where the controversy lies. After all, Mearls admits that many gamers don't care about combat balance. He just argues that having combat balance does not have to be detrimental to the non-combat aspects of the game. Hey, if you want to suck in combat, go right ahead. I suggest starting with a bard and building from there. D-bane, got anything to add? :D



Obiri said...

Haer is an active attempt to suck at combat. Luckily we keep him around for... why do we keep him around again?

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Mike Mearls' argument relies on three assumptions, all of which are antithetical to old-school play:

1. everything revolves around combat, rather than exploration and problem-solving.

2. character skill, rather than player skill, is to be rewarded.

3. players are competing with each other for screentime, rather than cooperating with each other to collectively succeed.

The pursuasiveness of Mearls' argument is utterly reliant on those three assumptions.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

I should add that i'm not saying that the approach is "wrong", only that it does not apply to old-school gaming.

Derobane-bane said...

You guys love Haer and you know it.

I get my kicks out creating a legacy within a campaign. Haer the bard is absolutely terrible at physical combat and thus will become memorable in other ways. Whether or not he survives the campaign, he will be more memorable than 90% of the PCs we see in our local games. He was the guy that built all of his own magical gear, resurrected an erinyes (which he forced into sexual servitude), stole a mansion, raised an army of followers, created an acting troupe, instituted an order of knights, continually ripped off the aristocracy, stole a ship, promoted a public gladiatorial event between a paladin and a devil, set up safe houses in the city, impersonated dangerous politicians and threw the block party of the century, all while he and his satyr cohort crept into houses and robbed the pants (literally) off of the undeserving.

Its clear that Haer is unparalleled in non-combat, but is Haer the bard good at combat? Well, that all depends on how you view combat. Does Haer kill stuff? Almost never. Does Haer even shoot or swing at stuff? Almost never. Haer may not deliver the killing blow, but he does continually heal his friends in combat. He inspires the others constantly (+2 to hit, +2 damage!). He debuffs (recently, anyway) the enemy. He even was able to hold a ninth level (at least ninth level) cleric so that the enemy could not cast any more spells and so that the paladin could perform a coup de grace so the leader could not flee to harry us in the future. Holding a cleric is not any easy thing to do. Haer the bard, however, forces a will save of 21 on a second level spell, not including the -2 that the enemy suffers (as a move action) against his debuff.

Haer also can now cast haste, should he decided to.

If getting the killing blow in combat is the definition of being effective in combat, then Haer the bard is the worst combatant, ever.

If buffing and healing the party and charming the enemy is the definition of combat efficacy, Haer is unmatched.

Still, Haer secretly envies the paladin's martial skills and is shamed to no end by his fellow arcanist's ability to wade into combat and thrash the enemy with a magical warhammer that weighs more than all of Haer's total combat gear.

You cant be good at everything! :)

Derobane-bane said...

The Paladin from citadel brings up some good points.

1. Should everything revolve around combat? While combat is often more exciting in problem resolution, it should not be the first solution EVERY time. I miss the creative days of first and second edition sometimes.

2. Anyone can make a kick-ass character in terms of number crunching... ok, some people are really, really good at this (I'm looking at Obri...). When a PC solves a problem because of high stats, they get praise but how ofter do PCs get praise for leading an army of trolls, orcs and hobgoblins through an elven forest to burn it out? Radikar 1, elves 0.

3. As a player, I am so guilty of looking for stage time rather than looking to solve things collectively. I am working on this.

Its all in your preference and perspective. To each their own, I suppose.

Rognar said...

D-bane, I absolutely agree. Haer is the most awesome non-combatant character I have ever seen....or he would be if we actually saw him in action. We only find out after the fact, since 90% of his schemes take place offscreen, so to speak. You are playing a parallel PbP campaign all by yourself.

Rognar said...

I would add that I always felt the very type of games that D-bane and Paladin are talking about are often the most unbalanced. For many players, especially young players, they figure if it doesn't say "you can do _______" on the character sheet, they assume they can't and all the prompting from the DM will not change that. I was a pathological introvert as a kid. When I started playing D&D, I couldn't imagine anything more uncomfortable than initiating some sort of free-form dialogue with an NPC. I was uncomfortable in my own skin, forget about that of someone else. However, I could find my space at the table with the numbers on my character sheet. I knew what I was capable of with my stats and my dice. That was what pulled me out of my shell and that is still my comfort zone.

Derobane-bane said...

Our poor DM is gonna get fired if he continues to indulge me in the flood of emails that he responds to throughout the week.

He makes it really fun and tense at times. On more than a few occassions, I thought I was going to show up for the gaming session with a new PC.

Haer has made it a goal since level one to be the mayor of this town. I thought that the DM was just pandering to my whims when he said that the mayor's house exploded and that the mayor approached our band from the shadows. When he showed us the picture from the magazine, I about crapped my pants. Haer may end up retiring early, if he gets his shot at taking the big chair in Westcrown. That would be an awesome ending for this character.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Rognar, I agree, that is the singular flaw with OD&D ... it relies on free-form, fluid, and unfettered social interaction, between the DM and the rest of the players. You hit the nail on the head in one of previous conversations, OD&D is about "acting", which can be scary for people like me who are apt to develop a severe case of stage-fright when put on the spot to act out what the character does or says, in first-person.