Can you please balance your game?

9 thoughts on “Can you please balance your game?

  1. D. Walker says:

    – “Better” is defined differently for different players. If I want my character to have a cat, it doesn’t matter to me that an owl can fly and has other advantages. I want a cat, which understandably lacks those advantages. –

    Except that for a great many players who absolutely want that cat, it DOES in fact matter that the owl is better. The fact that they’re offered another flatly superior option makes them feel conflicted.

    They REALLY want to have a cat, but they also don’t want to miss out on player power. And being forced to pick between the aesthetic choice they prefer and the extra player power that could literally mean the difference between success and failure, life and death – that choice feels AWFUL.

    And that choice, and the awful feeling that goes with it, can linger. On a general level, you might be super happy you have your cat, because cats are your favorite. but every time something goes wrong, you might be unable help feeling that you made the wrong choice.

    When your cat gets killed by an opportunity attack, you may think “If only I had the owl, it wouldn’t have provoked that attack, and it would still be alive!”.

    When your cat fails a jump to reach a high location, you may think “If only I had the owl, it could have flown up to that spot without even having to make a roll!”

    When your cat is too slow to accomplish a time sensitive task, you may think “If only I had the owl, it would have moved 60 feet in one turn instead of two!”

    When your cat can’t see what it is doing in darkness, you may think “If only I had the owl, its darkvision would have made that work!”

    The question is: why not just make the cat and the owl more balanced?

    Why not give the cat darkvision? Why not increase the cat’s movement speed, or reduce the owl’s speed a bit? Why not give the cat bonuses to jumping? Why not give the cat an ability akin to Flyby that let’s it avoid opportunity attacks?

    All of those improvements make perfect sense. Cats are nocturnal hunters just like owls, and should be able to see in darkness. Cats are quick, nimble, and agile – they should be able to run, leap, and dodge attacks quite well.

    The problem is not simply that owls are better – it’s that they’re so MUCH better, in so many ways, with no tradeoffs. They don’t have to be exactly equal in power – but there really should be much less of a disparity. It should be a meaningful choice not just from an aesthetic standpoint, but also in terms of power.

    The same problem is also present in weaponry. Some choices are simply flatly inferior – to an egregious degree. Why is this necessary?

    Why have Tridents as separate weapons from Spears? Why have a weapon that costs more, weights more, and requires Martial weapons training, and yet offers absolutely no benefit?

    Why not just classify tridents as a type of spear, and give them identical statistics? You already do this with oriental weapons! Nunchaku are represented by clubs, kama are represented by sickles, et cetera. Why add an entirely new weapon entry, if that entry makes no sense?

      • tideoftime says:

        I don’t think Walker is “missing the point” in this context; what (s)he notes, and provides good cross-examples of, is perfectly valid relative to the issue being discussed. DnD, unlike many other TTRPGs, is more directly foundation’d on table-top wargaming and the mechanics/systems reflect that very acutely. Walker isn’t making comparative points that a pwrgmr/min-maxer would (looking for edges whenever/wherever possible — the pwrgmr would just go “owl” without even a second thought/care for “cat”, in that regard), but rather making ones that *are* contextually on-point. *Why* doesn’t the cat (at least as a familiar) have Darkvision? (Owls don’t have, naturally, the quality of dark-related vision that Darkvision indicates — the game gives them a supernatural quality in that regard… so why *not* with cats, too…?) The movement rates cats are given may be “more” in terms of straight math (40w +30cl vs 5w +60fl for owls), but that’s marginal to say the least.

        To put it another way via further cross-example: while the classes aren’t directly balanced (full casters are better “cannons” at dealing high damage but more generally vulnerable, while martial types have more damage-over-time delivery and durability but not the versatility), and some are directly more powerful/versatile for general purposes (Druids are the oft-cited example), they compliment each other to be effective as a group. Along that line of thinking, though, within each of the given classes and their features, any given sub-class/feature is fairly balanced relative to others of a co-sub-class. With familiars, though, that falls apart in several instances; this makes the mechanics of the game thwart part of the RP/narrative aspects if/when any “proper” combat encounters occur, particularly at the early levels where such are more immediately lethal.

        It’s not too much to ask/expect a degree of contextual balance — especially when such makes sense relative to the examples cited.

  2. Enchanted Hobbit says:

    Just another Crawford obscure I’m not going to really answer the question because he knows the mechanics were screwed up and doesn’t want to admit it.

  3. It's called roleplaying...not powergaming says:

    Play to the character not to the sheet. Power gamers and minmaxers are the only ones to complain and they are the only problems in the game. Solution…boot them from your table.

    • tideoftime says:

      While I agree with the spirit of what you’re saying (I’ve always worked outside the context of mechanics when it came to DnD over the past 4 decades I’ve played, focusing on characterization and the narratives involved), you’re perhaps overlooking the very legitimate context involved in Walker’s (and others’) citing of the comparative points about conceptual game balance with the familiars, among others. The mechanics, as-written, enforce a degree of compromised RP in the sense that if played from the early level onwards the marked distinctions (ones that *don’t* contextually make sense, such as a cat lacking Darkvision even though owls possess such in the game despite not having that quality in real life any more so than cats do) make it so that choosing “x” over “y” is notably more of a disadvantage and adding more to the likelihood of the lesser choice leading to the character’s demise… which defeats the long-run goal of character development.

  4. It’s not a wargame. The theme matters.

    If you have a cat, people will assume it’s just your cat. If you have an owl, that’s extravagant – people will think you’re a noble. People will remark on your owl. There’s also the fact that birds don’t fly very well indoors. The fact that it makes a loud flapping noise whenever it moves.

    The spider familiar is also technically far superior to a cat. It also creeps people out. Few people are going to want to pet your massive ugly spider.

  5. Light Up The Night says:

    The cat/darkvision topic has always bothered me. As a DM I give all felines darkvision. (Why do Tabaxi get it RAW?)

    If you look at it from a real-world biological stand point, using humans as a control, some studies suggest that a domestic house cat has roughly has 6-8 times more light receptors (rods) in their eyes, where owls may have up to 100 times that of humans.

    Translation to D&D = Humans (no darkvision), Cats (darkvision), Owls (superior darkvision)

  6. Mellow Wrath says:

    As a DM (of just a little bit, if experience matters)
    If a player came to me with something like your scenario; with multiple choices, they wanted flavor “A” but wanted the statistics of “B,” then I’d look into it and if its fine then, a nice tasty flavor of “A” with the statistics of “B.”
    For the scenario stated, I’d recommend the player a Tressym, its already in the book, and since its decent compared to the Owl(and there’s the arrow of DM slaying). If they wanted it exactly/nearly like the owl, we can homebrew the creature together, making sure its not too strong, but not too weak(worthy of being the Owl’s rival or brother).
    The Arrow of DM Slaying: it might be more fun if I make the game around my players, on their strengths and weaknesses, but also creativity
    Arrow of DM Slaying Example: “Oh?! you just got fireball, well guess what, there’s a group of Trolls attacking this village! GO GET EM!”
    The Tressym can see invisible creatures, maybe I’d lean onto that fact so you can feel like your choice wasn’t in vain.
    There’s a king very tired of the party causing problems. I roll dice, point to the character with the weakest Charisma mod, and ask him to speak on behalf of the party. (why is this a Arrow of DM Slaying? Well this usually means the characters fail spectacularly, and then completely derail the campaign by doing something crazy; meaning I need to make a map of a castle, roll the guards, and everything else cause the player decided to attack the king(aka a CR 1/4 Noble) and……. the king died, aaaaand I need to do all this within 15 minutes. This hasn’t happened… yet, but I would take it as a nice memory if it did happen.)
    Anyways, its fun for your characters to suck a bit sometimes or at certain things; creates chaos, and that’s always fun. You’re not gods, but you’re not losers either; you’re heroes, flawed but powerful; a party, where you all cover each other’s weaknesses.
    If one character is getting too strong, there’s usually a weakness to their tactics, if that doesn’t work, then I give magic items designed for the one’s not shining as bright. The minmaxer, feels smort for their smort decisions for a good bit, and everyone feels powerful.
    In the campaign I’m running now, we rolled stats for characters, the new player didn’t get good stats(which broke my heart), but by saving grace in her backstory, she stole 2 daggers. So I just made one an artifact, and the other a very rare item. It’ll be fine… probably. The artifact is Windvane, but flavored as a dagger; the only issue is the bomb. I also gave her a interesting homebrew racial feature.
    If the characters feel too comfortable with the fact that god has created encounters for them to power through, guess what, I’m a DM, and I like to messing with people. Maybe I should use that bomb feature.

    I’d love a book that made the perfect campaign for my group, but that’s my job, to forge arrows of DM Slaying, and I’m proud of it! Maybe I’ll maybe make a book, it’ll be crappy, but it’ll work, probably, if I get around to it.

    And to everyone out there being mean about powergaming:
    We were all “that one kid,” that definitely over did it, but we grew out of it eventually. Hell, I was a horrible little power gamer, with original ideas which were actually thought up by smarter people years ago. Now I just feel bad for my old DM; should’ve roleplayed more, and I miss him so much. I respect him, he dealt with me until I became better. Like children, they’re horrible, but throwing them out doesn’t make them better. There is a line of too much power gaming, and not enough.
    Now I only power-game after I make the character story; like having a blind character because his eyes were stolen by a witch, made a deal with a Erinyes, and became a pact of the chain Warlock so he can regain his vision through the Imp familiar. Now I could just be a hexblade, and pick the optimal build, but I have a story to my character, they have a name, things happened to them, they have personality, I have seen past the wargame and that there is more fun to be had in other ways.

    Gosh darn it, I’ve been ranting for awhile. Sorry guys

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