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Aenno

About game balance

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Psykers or Blanks are one example. Tech-Priests, Sororitas, Space Marines, are others, and the line doesn't end there. All these classes come with a variety of unique traits or abilities, and whilst I believe they should remain unique, I also believe their implementation should be balanced to each other and "normal" characters of a suitable equivalent power level.

 

I'm still an idealistic fan of the concept of a unified ruleset that would allow all sorts of characters to exist in the same campaign (like GW did with its d100 Inquisitor game), because in the end, all these characters can be heroic protagonists exactly like the ones appearing in various stories or other setting background pieces. I'd hesitate to bring up Black Crusade once more, but it still serves as the best example for how lack of balancing can create a ridiculous gap between individual player characters of the very same role, and ultimately force some of them into becoming sidekicks for the others in spite of the group's original ideas. Just look at the altered Horde rules in Tome of Blood and how they effectively introduce two tiers of realism depending on the type of character you're playing!

 

For DH2, it is somewhat less of a problem now, as Marines aren't available as a class yet, but you can already summon them as Reinforcement Characters to completely steal the show of any of your combat characters, and if DH1 is any indication, it's just a matter of time until some supplement will make them playable here, too.

 

Over the time, a lot of band aids have popped up to adjust and curtail the efficiency of such characters (revealing that the designers are apparently quite aware of the problems they cause), but as long as the core mechanics remain sacrosanct, I don't believe in a somewhat level playing field any time soon.

 

As for your question regarding what I would do: I believe both the XP system and Aptitudes are good -- it's the effects of the stuff you can buy with them that need tinkering. Like in any MMO, the more Talents and Abilities you allow to stack with each other, the more ludicrous things can get. Just search the Deathwatch forum for the "1 on 1 vs a Bloodthirster" thread, though lately there's a discussion over at Only War as well regarding clever use of Orders that will see a simple lasgun put plasma weapons to shame.

 

In short, there's just too many things modifying your numbers. It is unrealistic, it is unwieldy, and it needlessly increases the difference between the characters on too many fronts. It's like the system is breaking down under the weight of its own rules as mechanics, counter-mechanics, bonuses and contingencies all come together, so much so that it has apparently become a sport on these forums to find the most efficient (read: ridiculous) combinations.

 

But as you mention progression, let me also reiterate an earlier suggestion that this system should perhaps take a page from Shadowrun when it comes to Knowledge skills. This, not Social skills, is what really irks me in regards to the aforementioned tough decisions. Because very few roles require the character to shine in social interaction (the ones that do are usually specialists that come with appropriate bonuses built-in), but many characters end up missing Lore skills that, by all rights, they should have simply due to their origins and past experiences. How come an Adeptus Ministorum character doesn't have "Common Lore: Imperial Creed", for example? Why doesn't a Highborn character start with "Linguistics: High Gothic"?

 

This is actually a new flaw in the system that came up only with DH2 and its streamlined character generation. I really, really like its modular style, but there seem to be so many things missing that you have to buy extra for precious XP for a proper portrayal of your character, and of course these XP will later be missed for combat stuff.

 

My idea here would be to expand and rework Lore Skills into a more comprehensive list, where exclusive Scholastic and Forbidden Lores (which could otherwise only be acquired by playing) would be part of the package you get from chargen modules, and Common Lore Skills are made available for a free one-time pick at the value of the character's Intelligence Bonus x2.

 

Perhaps this would have the welcome side effect of making Lore Skills more relevant in the game as well, by providing a much larger list to pick interesting subjects from, and allowing players to create custom, specialised Lore Skills (with GM vetting) suitable to their backgrounds. For example, an Arbites character from Scintilla would know a lot about the gangs there, but not so much about the criminals elsewhere. Here's an ideal opportunity to increase the difference between individual characters without letting one look more or less important than another, depending on how often you as the GM would insert opportunities for the players to make use of their characters' knowledge, ultimately supporting party dynamics and roleplaying, and players actually thinking about their characters' past.

 

I've just been playing Shadowrun again the other day, and I can say that my biker's area knowledge of "Bars in Seattle" came in handy at least once! :P

 

 

[edit] This seems to have gotten longer than I had intended -- apologies for that. It's late and I just started typing, with my fingers stopping only as I had emptied what was going through my brain right now. I hope the text isn't too messy.

Edited by Lynata

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The knowledge thing is one part of Numenera I really liked - you spend 2 XP (a decent amount, 1/32 of what you would spend to get to the next Tier) to become Skilled in a specific area of expertise/language. So if you are in a village that speaks a local language you don't, you can spend some XP to understand it - but won't really help you outside of a small region or so. 

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At Alox. I hate the aptitudes system. I think it was a poor idea and badly implemented. I feel it takes away heavily from character idea and role construction or even just progression. But most of my player like it better than first editions Teir class system. So despite my dislike, if they like it. I just mumble my distaste to myself. But my players have never really complained about certain traits being too useful or being hindered by the high costs. They usually just talk about what is more worthwhile to them to get this skill first or that one, with the intention of getting both. But as for a balance issue, I cannot say as I don't really disagree and thus don't have much to add.

 

Combat: I feel the scaling has gotten much more weird in second edition. Although it is very polished and much less ambiguous than first edition. In first edition, gear was king, talents helped by expanding capabilities (giving an extra dodge, or allowing counter attack) and stats were boosters. Second edition, it feels to be more of talents are most important (effectively controlling your characters progression due to their extreme usefulness), stat lines control talent access and boost effects, then lastly gear. I don't dislike this change, but it feels like an unwelcome and needless change from the first. Though scaling, the system has always been lethal, possibly to a fault, but I actually like that. Though, in my sessions, I have yet to see any particular combat style get nullified or simply not as useful as another. Albeit that statement is very much a victim of circumstances. Lastly, I have no issue with the wound system. Except maybe pen should eat through toughness. Otherwise no comment. Dodge? Agility, dodge has always been the most useful thing. Even my players state to newcomers, the first thing you want to do, is get your agility bonus to at least 3 and then get at least two ranks of dodge. I know of no good way other than extreme fundamental change to the game, to change or alter this, or if it is even should be considered a problem. 

 

I am really not that bothered by the combat issues as it works fairly well in the beginning so its not a huge issue for new people coming into the game.

 

I really like the intension behind the aptitude system, namely that if you select a certain archetype to play you will get some aptitudes that lowers the xp price for those talents/skill that kinda belongs with that archetype, so in a way players are nudged without being forced to go in the direction of their archetype. New players don't know the archetypes of W40K, so its a good thing with a little nudging.

 

The problem comes when an experienced player advices a new player against their choice of background/role because they then get aptitudes that sucks. Generally I am fairly liberal with letting my players switch out aptitudes to avoid this, and there are plenty of other solutions posted around this forum. The best thing would of course be to have balanced aptitudes in the first place, and I think that balancing the aptitudes (given that a complete redesign is not on the table) would do much for the game.

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Oh jeez. I'll try to keep the responses as brief as possible to avoid a text wall.

 

At Alox. I hate the aptitudes system. I think it was a poor idea and badly implemented. I feel it takes away heavily from character idea and role construction or even just progression. But most of my player like it better than first editions Teir class system. So despite my dislike, if they like it. I just mumble my distaste to myself. But my players have never really complained about certain traits being too useful or being hindered by the high costs. They usually just talk about what is more worthwhile to them to get this skill first or that one, with the intention of getting both. But as for a balance issue, I cannot say as I don't really disagree and thus don't have much to add.

 

Combat: I feel the scaling has gotten much more weird in second edition. Although it is very polished and much less ambiguous than first edition. In first edition, gear was king, talents helped by expanding capabilities (giving an extra dodge, or allowing counter attack) and stats were boosters. Second edition, it feels to be more of talents are most important (effectively controlling your characters progression due to their extreme usefulness), stat lines control talent access and boost effects, then lastly gear. I don't dislike this change, but it feels like an unwelcome and needless change from the first. Though scaling, the system has always been lethal, possibly to a fault, but I actually like that. Though, in my sessions, I have yet to see any particular combat style get nullified or simply not as useful as another. Albeit that statement is very much a victim of circumstances. Lastly, I have no issue with the wound system. Except maybe pen should eat through toughness. Otherwise no comment. Dodge? Agility, dodge has always been the most useful thing. Even my players state to newcomers, the first thing you want to do, is get your agility bonus to at least 3 and then get at least two ranks of dodge. I know of no good way other than extreme fundamental change to the game, to change or alter this, or if it is even should be considered a problem. 

 

At Lynata, correct. My intent was to simply say, I don't think these issues you are raising are actually about balance of the game but more of social/party issues. 

Role redundancy is not necessarily a bad thing, but I've already expressed my thoughts on it prior so I won't go into detail. Party balance is not something you can control without simply talking to the other players and choosing to make a balanced group or everyone just do as they please. 

Roleplaying vs roll playing. I agree. But I don't see a balance issue, either spend the XP to be good at combat first and then social, or vice versa. Or stagger and boost incrementally. I honestly do not have any venom to this, (when I reread it, I noticed it could come off poorly toned) but am curious as to what you would prefer? To remove the XP system? Or change the style of progression?

Character progression. Again. I agree. I preferred the old style more. But the skill section was streamlined, both good and bad effects came out of it. 

Gear vs character gear boosts: Neutral on it. My players say they like it more. I am indifferent. 

 

Question. What skills and talents are not available to everyone, traits or mechanical effects? Other than the obvious Psyker vs Blank hard classes. Or are you speaking more of difficulty due to costs? ( in example: Not having finesse, making most combat oriented talents cost quite a bit more)

 

At Cpteveros, I wholly agree. I did not mean to imply, nothing of merit was raised at any point, but no one seems to have any agreement on anything. Balance was far to ambiguously used to be properly debated. People were rightfully criticising, the wound system, the aptitudes, party compositions, XP costs vs rewards, gear capabilities and usefulness of talents. Most of these are/were different arguments or gripes under the perhaps too large of a banner of 'balance issues', when it was much more nuanced than that. Opinions and preference being carried as balance woes, (in all honestly, I am not too bothered by this, because it was makes these threads interesting). I worded myself poorly there which has now been made obvious to me by the replies.

Balance in this case is a catch-all for mechanics that don't work well (this can be in terms of spotlight effects for players, relative combat ability, fostering good roleplay, misleading players, or a bunch of other things). It's pretty easy to glean from the context of the thread that balance is being used in this manner. It was being properly debated before you stepped in, implied that balance is solved by GM and players and thus not worthy of discussion, and then dismissed every example previously brought up in the thread. This thrrad boils down to there being a bunch of issues that people have with the games mechanics. These issues all basically lead to the same problem of players and GM having an uneven/unbalanced experience with the game. A GM can try correcting for this, but it requires the skill to recognize it, the skill to recognize what to do, and the skill to do this over and over as issues come up. Also, it should not be the GMs job to battle against the rules; it should be the GMs job to use the rules to facilitate play and interpret questions within the rules themselves.

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