What is your current perspective on how you “balance balance”?

Comment from discussion Over the years, it seems that the philosophy of “power balance” (between PC’s) has shifted for various editions D&D:
1-2e: Let the DM figure out power.
3e: The more effort your group puts into power, the more powerful you should be.
4e: Here is how much power you should have. If you have more than that, it’s probably a mistake.
5e: Here is your power. Here are some possible ways to abuse that. Do as you will.
What is your current perspective on how you “balance balance”? Is it mostly a matter of allowing different types of gamers to play at the same table without feeling over/under-effective? Or is there an intrinsic tension between uniformity and creativity at play?I think it’s about finding a good middle ground between different play styles, and giving DMs the tools and insight to understand that balance comes form the experience at the table, which is formed only in part by the mechanics.
There is definitely tension between a uniform game and creativity – people weaned on digital games and TCG are hardwired to seek out advantages and optimization. Tabletop RPGs ask you to direct that energy into being interesting and entertaining. Sometimes being entertained involves being scared of a threat, screwing up, or failing.
It’s definitely a tough design issue. I think your summary of balance is really spot on. The best we can do is equip DMs with good insight and knowledge into their craft, and let the system speak plainly to them so that they can make informed decisions and sculpt the game as needed.
This is definitely a question that I might be completely whiffing on after 8 straight hours at my desk/in meetings today…AMA: Mike Mearls, Co-Designer of D&D 5, Head of D&D R&D

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.