How important is balance?


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Some of us are missing parts of the game in the playtest that we have in PF1e: 3.5 style multiclassing, background traits and racial traits with alternate racial traits. Jason has said that these elements were often the most problematic because they allowed players to cherry pick stuff and make their character more powerful as a result.

Presumably these elements have been removed from the playtest (alternate racial traits kind of exist but are quite anemic. Although I do expect Paizo to increase it to 2 feats at 1st level, it doesn't really address my point which is racial traits were less fat then racial feats are and so offered more customisation because you got more of them. Same with skill feats vs background traits).

I was wondering how imoortant balance is to people and whether they would prefer less balance with more PF1e elements or if they're happy with more balance with less options.

My group cares about balance to a degree. We don't allow summoner in our games because we find them overpowered. But we do allow 9th level casters knowing that they are quite overpowered compared to say the CRB rogue.

Some of my group has played more balanced games that had less options for a while, but stopped playing them because we enjoyed the greater breadth of PF1e (and this was CRB PF1e vs multitude of splat books other game. So no. It's not a lack of bloat making us want PF1e). Others in my group just went straight from 3.5 to PF1e.

As I've said quite a bit my group is dissatisfied with the current rules and would happily accept less balance for more optipns.

Silver Crusade

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Well, there's the 10,000 feats, archetypes and spells of PF1 put out by Paizo and 3PPs so that you can enjoy stabbing yourself in the eye, excuse me, making "fun but suboptimal" characters until the end of the world. Also, you can keep having those sit next to a moderately optimised Wizard and telling yourself that the power/versatility gap is an added value to the game. I mean, it's all still out there.

Meanwhile, let's have a game where I don't need to tell people "yeah, I know there are Rogues in the core rulebook, but they suck donkey balls so hard that you shouldn't even bother".


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Have you seen all the threads about casters and spells not being good enough? Apparently the amount of power a character can wield is extremely important to some people.


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Balance for balance's sake gets boring very quickly. If you wanted true balance you reduce everything to a single class with a single set of abilities and no difference in gear or ability scores or anything.
Ta-da! now everything is perfectly balanced.

But we don't want that. We want variety, being better at things we want to be good at than things we don't care about, and having fun.
Throughout my gaming career the most important thing for people has been that character is good at something they try to be good at and fun to play. It has never mattered if one character is technically more flexible or powerful, so long as the other can do what they want to well.


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I prefer imbalanced games. Magic trumping mundane in particular, is something I like in fantasy stories.

It’s not the way of the world nowadays though. It’s almost universally held in these kinds of debates that balance is a mark of good design (usually it’s framed as “That option is so unbalanced - objectively poor game design”).


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Gorbacz wrote:

Well, there's the 10,000 feats, archetypes and spells of PF1 put out by Paizo and 3PPs so that you can enjoy stabbing yourself in the eye, excuse me, making "fun but suboptimal" characters until the end of the world. Also, you can keep having those sit next to a moderately optimised Wizard and telling yourself that the power/versatility gap is an added value to the game. I mean, it's all still out there.

Meanwhile, let's have a game where I don't need to tell people "yeah, I know there are Rogues in the core rulebook, but they suck donkey balls so hard that you shouldn't even bother".

Ya know I could say "If you want a brand new balanced game with the glut of equally* optimised options go ahead and play D&D 4th edition. Meanwhile let's have a game that's actually descended from those games that came before it rather than have yet another WotC style knock down rebuild". Except we're both clearly interested in PF2e for our own reasons so rather than bashing each other why not actually discuss the issues?

*For certain values of equally.

Silver Crusade

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John Lynch 106 wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:

Well, there's the 10,000 feats, archetypes and spells of PF1 put out by Paizo and 3PPs so that you can enjoy stabbing yourself in the eye, excuse me, making "fun but suboptimal" characters until the end of the world. Also, you can keep having those sit next to a moderately optimised Wizard and telling yourself that the power/versatility gap is an added value to the game. I mean, it's all still out there.

Meanwhile, let's have a game where I don't need to tell people "yeah, I know there are Rogues in the core rulebook, but they suck donkey balls so hard that you shouldn't even bother".

Ya know I could say "If you want a brand new balanced game with the glut of equally* optimised options go ahead and play D&D 4th edition. Meanwhile let's have a game that's actually descended from those games that came before it rather than have yet another WotC style knock down rebuild". Except we're both clearly interested in PF2e for our own reasons so rather than bashing each other why not actually discuss the issues?

*For certain values of equally.

Sorry, won't work. My primary reason for being Paizo's customer are the APs and the setting, something WotC doesn't really provide ever since 4e came out. My secondary consideration is how easy it is to bring new people to the game. Paizo scored A+ on the former and C+ on the latter with PF1, so I'm interested in change which is mutually exclusive with what you are after. For you, a tweaked PF1 is perfectly fine, because you're not seeing the issues with PF1 which I experience. For me, it's all about discarding the faulty principles of 3.5e design and starting over.


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I often include new to TTRPG players in my campaigns so my desires may be different than those of long established groups.

It's important to me that the system is balanced enough that a casual player can select a role and have a reasonable opportunity to do fun/impactful things in it. It's important to me that the system isn't imbalanced to the point that an optimized character can render a less optimized character obsolete - no matter what actions the less optimized character takes.

I don't really care if a player fields a super powered character (or, even better, comes up with a clever use of their abilities) who completely destroys my encounter - I like rolling with that - but party parity is important to me and there should be a min to each max. I like to power game myself - system mastery is motivating to me - but that shouldn't be to the point of relegating another player to the audience. As I've stated elsewhere, an experienced GM can counterbalance these deficiencies in the system but, personally, I think it would be nice if they didn't have to and could focus on other things.

To use an analogy, let's say that our player characters are superheroes... One of them is Wonder Woman, one of them is the Flash, and one of them is Green Arrow. I'm okay with that pretty broad spread of power level. What I don't want is Superman to join the mix - who is better than each of them in their areas of focus. Stronger than Wonder Woman, faster than the Flash, and - not that he'd ever need to - better at firing arrows than the Green Arrow.


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Gorbacz wrote:
Sorry, won't work. My primary reason for being Paizo's customer are the APs and the setting, something WotC doesn't really provide ever since 4e came out. My secondary consideration is how easy it is to bring new people to the game. Paizo scored A+ on the former and C+ on the latter with PF1, so I'm interested in change which is mutually exclusive with what you are after. For you, a tweaked PF1 is perfectly fine, because you're not seeing the issues with PF1 which I experience. For me, it's all about discarding the faulty principles of 3.5e design and starting over.

Well, at least nobody can now fault you for honesty.

My personal design goals for PF2E are pretty much that I think the 3.X skeleton is great and has worked for 20 years and PF2E should be an improvement on it, not a complete rework. It's too bad our goals are incompatible, but that's how it is.

Silver Crusade

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magnuskn wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
Sorry, won't work. My primary reason for being Paizo's customer are the APs and the setting, something WotC doesn't really provide ever since 4e came out. My secondary consideration is how easy it is to bring new people to the game. Paizo scored A+ on the former and C+ on the latter with PF1, so I'm interested in change which is mutually exclusive with what you are after. For you, a tweaked PF1 is perfectly fine, because you're not seeing the issues with PF1 which I experience. For me, it's all about discarding the faulty principles of 3.5e design and starting over.

Well, at least nobody can now fault you for honestly.

My personal design goals for PF2E are pretty much that I think the 3.X skeleton is great and has worked for 20 years and PF2E should be an improvement on it, not a complete rework. It's too bad our goals are incompatible, but that's how it is.

Oh, PF1 is a perfectly fine system, when and if the players and the GM are capable, willing and ready to put in the amount of time required to master the system enough to ensure that we aren't looking at an Angel Summoner/BMX Bandit scenario. This goes doubly so for the GM.

That's doable, but for me and my folks, it was doable in college and isn't quite possible now. Faced with the amount of time investment PF1 requires on the top of generally time-consuming nature of RPGs, the more kids get born and the more engaging the jobs become, the less alluring PF1 becomes.


The Once and Future Kai wrote:
To use an analogy, let's say that our player characters are superheroes... One of them is Wonder Woman, one of them is the Flash, and one of them is Green Arrow. I'm okay with that pretty broad spread of power level.

Immortal who can fly and has super strength and is largely bulletproof and is a master of all weapons. Has magic unbreakable lasso that can compel people to tell the truth.

Superhero who is so fast he can win battles against regular opponents before they even know he's there. Can also create whirlwinds, travel in time, and in general solve most problems by running round in circles and talking about molecules.

Guy who is good at firing arrows but doesn't want to kill anyone so uses arrows with boxing gloves on the end.

That's a pretty broad spread.

Silver Crusade

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Matthew Downie wrote:
The Once and Future Kai wrote:
To use an analogy, let's say that our player characters are superheroes... One of them is Wonder Woman, one of them is the Flash, and one of them is Green Arrow. I'm okay with that pretty broad spread of power level.

Immortal who can fly and has super strength and is largely bulletproof and is a master of all weapons. Has magic unbreakable lasso that can compel people to tell the truth.

Superhero who is so fast he can win battles against regular opponents before they even know he's there. Can also create whirlwinds, travel in time, and in general solve most problems by running round in circles and talking about molecules.

Guy who is good at firing arrows but doesn't want to kill anyone so uses arrows with boxing gloves on the end.

That's a pretty broad spread.

To boil it down to Pathfinder, a party of a Paladin, Alchemist and Vigilante is mostly fine. You can have them even pick feats that are allo over the place, even if they screw up, the class abilities will carry them through.

And then comes the Conjurer Wizard and the Rogue.


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Gorbacz wrote:

Oh, PF1 is a perfectly fine system, when and if the players and the GM are capable, willing and ready to put in the amount of time required to master the system enough to ensure that we aren't looking at an Angel Summoner/BMX Bandit scenario. This goes doubly so for the GM.

That's doable, but for me and my folks, it was doable in college and isn't quite possible now. Faced with the amount of time investment PF1 requires on the top of generally time-consuming nature of RPGs, the more kids get born and the more engaging the jobs become, the less alluring PF1 becomes.

See, here is where I run into problems in several different way with your stated desires and, well, reality. To wit:

1.) We already went over the discussion a few weeks ago where you express your hope that Paizo will slow down their publishing schedule after PF2E releases to not bloat the system up too quickly and my express skepticism at such an assertion. But I remain deeply skeptical and so far have seen no evidence whatsoever that the devs plan to have a much slower release schedule for new splat books.

2.) You are not the only adult person with a full-time job and kids and yet many others with your same status manage to run PF1E just fine. For me, I've changed to AP's over homebrewn when my schedule in RL began to fill up. I'm not saying your problems are not real, but they are not an universal truth.

3.) You are kinda abdicating the power of the GM to talk to powergamers and get them to be more group friendly and to help out gamers new to the system. I have one new player in my regular group since a few months and we collectively just help out the guy when he has questions.

4.) One of the biggest points of contention on the board in general seems to be that PF2E is not really less complex than PF1E, just different from the prior system (the enjoyment factor of that is up to each individual person). Hence I don't exactly see how you can advocate so much against one system when the one you are helping push through only shifts problems around, but remains deeply complex and hard to build NPC's for.

Silver Crusade

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magnuskn wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:

Oh, PF1 is a perfectly fine system, when and if the players and the GM are capable, willing and ready to put in the amount of time required to master the system enough to ensure that we aren't looking at an Angel Summoner/BMX Bandit scenario. This goes doubly so for the GM.

That's doable, but for me and my folks, it was doable in college and isn't quite possible now. Faced with the amount of time investment PF1 requires on the top of generally time-consuming nature of RPGs, the more kids get born and the more engaging the jobs become, the less alluring PF1 becomes.

See, here is where I run into problems in several different way with your stated desires and, well, reality. To wit:

1.) We already went over the discussion a few weeks ago where you express your hope that Paizo will slow down their publishing schedule after PF2E releases to not bloat the system up too quickly and my express skepticism at such an assertion. But I remain deeply skeptical and so far have seen no evidence whatsoever that the devs plan to have a much slower release schedule for new splat books.

2.) You are not the only adult person with a full-time job and kids and yet many others with your same status manage to run PF1E just fine. For me, I've changed to AP's over homebrewn when my schedule in RL began to fill up. I'm not saying your problems are not real, but they are not an universal truth.

3.) You are kinda abdicating the power of the GM to talk to powergamers and get them to be more group friendly and to help out gamers new to the system. I have one new player in my regular group since a few months and we collectively just help out the guy when he has questions.

4.) One of the biggest points of contention on the board in general seems to be that PF2E is not really less complex than PF1E, just different from the prior system (the enjoyment factor of that is up to each individual person). Hence I don't exactly see how you can advocate so much against one system when the one you are...

1. You remain skeptical, I remain optimistic. It's a recurring trend that won't go away :)

2. Sure as hell my problems aren't universal, but you'll excuse me if I make my purchasing decisions in entertainment based on my situation and advocate for it to be taken into the account. This is spending money on fun, not building a better planet for everyone :P

3. I don't abdicate the power, I merely am not interested in exercising it, or in spending the time necessary to judge whether I need to use that power or not. Rule 0 should be used to fill in gaps in rules and to make The Rule of Cool take precedence before RAW, it should not be used as a hammer to punch out imbalances of the system. Oberoni Fallacy and all that.

We're meeting to have fun, not to argue whether Matt's emergency force sphere is OP or not. There's absolutely no fun in such arguments for us.

4. You're looking at a playtest document with one of the questions being "how to present the ruleset in order to make it easy to approach?". As with every draft WIP doc there's a lot to improve in this regard, but the core elements (which I define as: +level to everything, 4 degrees of success and 3 actions per round) are easy enough to grasp for me and most of my 20+ players I've ran through a playtest/played a playtest game with.


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John Lynch 106 wrote:
Some of us are missing parts of the game in the playtest that we have in PF1e: 3.5 style multiclassing, background traits and racial traits with alternate racial traits. Jason has said that these elements were often the most problematic because they allowed players to cherry pick stuff and make their character more powerful as a result.

This just annoys the heck out of me. Paizo essentially admits that it broke PF1e by releasing too many poorly thought through options. Now, instead of fixing what it broke, it throws it on the trash.


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All reasonable points from your perspective, but one of them I want to address

Gorbacz wrote:

3. I don't abdicate the power, I merely am not interested in exercising it, or in spending the time necessary to judge whether I need to use that power or not. Rule 0 should be used to fill in gaps in rules and to make The Rule of Cool take precedence before RAW, it should not be used as a hammer to punch out imbalances of the system. Oberoni Fallacy and all that.

We're meeting to have fun, not to argue whether Matt's emergency force sphere is OP or not. There's absolutely no fun in such arguments for us.

I think that is one thing you cannot get away from. You, as the GM, are not a player, you are the arbiter and storyteller. Hence you have to do arbitration sometimes. I'm not saying that your approach is "wrong" or anything, but very different from my personal take.

John Lynch 106 wrote:
Also it sounds like you wish Paizo produced D&D 5e APs. It sounds like your ideal scenario. Is be surprised if someone hadn't converted some of them.

Yeah, that kinda came to my mind as well. 5E sounds so much like the system Gorbacz is advocating for. But since he explicitly wants APs for the system he plays, it seemed 5E is out as an option. I heard people talk about converting AP's to 5E somewhere on the board, though.


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pjrogers wrote:


This just annoys the heck out of me. Paizo essentially admits that it broke PF1e by releasing too many poorly thought through options. Now, instead of fixing what it broke, it throws it on the trash.

Hear him! Pretty much how I feel about it.


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Balance is pretty low on the list of things I worry about. It comes up in forum conversations since its a concrete point that can be hashed out, but if the end result isn't interesting then all the balancing was wasted. You don't need a complicated system if your game gives each class a different color of damage and not much else.

PF2 is a really balance focused game. I've come to terms with it and will happily contribute what I can to ensuring it's balanced. It also seems pretty boring. The focus on turn by turn balance and class versus class balance means that many types of characters and abilities won't exist and that certain types of spells and effects will be locked away as DM only options, something I find annoying. It makes the system feel incomplete or pathwork.

Scarab Sages

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I'm currently watching 7 groups self-exploding because PF1 is unbalanced and players get mad that some can "break the game" by combining things that probably weren't intended to combo but it is somehow RAW.

Then their anger make necessary for the GM To balance things on his own.
And he needed to do so much work / research to try it but the rules are so massive that he eventually gave up.

He doesn't gave up just the balance thing.
He gave up roleplaying game as a whole.

So. Yeah. Balance things a bit please.
Or at least make it so the game is more homebrew friendly. And pf2 seems (seems) more easily homebrewed for me.


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I think everyone wants things more balanced. Paizo has put out some questionable spells, feats, traits, classes and races over the years (everything I said except traits will still be in PF2 so there's nothing stopping them from doing it again).

How much ate you willing to remove from the game to get that balance? Balance at any cost? Keep everything except 3.5 multiclassing? Where is your line where Paizo goes "too far" in trying to balance the game?

Scarab Sages

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magnuskn wrote:

All reasonable points from your perspective, but one of them I want to address

Gorbacz wrote:

3. I don't abdicate the power, I merely am not interested in exercising it, or in spending the time necessary to judge whether I need to use that power or not. Rule 0 should be used to fill in gaps in rules and to make The Rule of Cool take precedence before RAW, it should not be used as a hammer to punch out imbalances of the system. Oberoni Fallacy and all that.

We're meeting to have fun, not to argue whether Matt's emergency force sphere is OP or not. There's absolutely no fun in such arguments for us.

I think that is one thing you cannot get away from. You, as the GM, are not a player, you are the arbiter and storyteller. Hence you have to do arbitration sometimes. I'm not saying that your approach is "wrong" or anything, but very different from my personal take.

You missed the point.

If you need to constantly homebrew things, you would be better just making a system on your own.

PF1 is so broken that I saw tables with so many homebrew that I doubt anyone would reckognize it as Pathfinder.

And they didn't did that for fun. It was literrally HELL for them to spend weeks creating something that fix issues without creating new ones and easily doable without rewriting most of the books.

GM ruling is fine. I use it a lot for narrative purpose. But when people stop every 10 minutes to complain about the 10 level Rogue that somehow can manage to nova 200 damage on average each round several times per day, there is indeed something that went wrong somewhere.


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For me the amount of time you can enjoyably invest in the game outside of the game session (but don't have to) is a huge positive and something I'm worried about losing in PF2.

Its like painting minis or designing a Magic deck. The hobby provides fun beyond when you can get the gang together to play. Heck, its like the fact I enjoy cooking from scratch more than eating in a restaurant.


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I think balance is important in so far as unbalanced game system can be very hard to run for the GM, and not fun for people playing characters that get eclipsed by the super characters.

On the flip side, games that sacrificed fun options for balance, are also making a substantial trade off.

My experience is that PFe1 with all of the additional material was so unbalanced that it caused problems. Whereas PFe2 has stripped out so many options as to become dull and boring for players. It does seem really good for GMs though.

I think more interesting options can be put back into PFe2 without compromising balance. However, this is not a trivial task.

Maximising fun is obviously the most important thing for a system. Game balance is part of this equation, and for some people it has a higher priority than others. Good game design is about balancing mechanical game balance against the other factors that make the game fun.


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Shaheer-El-Khatib wrote:
GM ruling is fine. I use it a lot for narrative purpose. But when people stop every 10 minutes to complain about the 10 level Rogue that somehow can manage to nova 200 damage on average each round several times per day, there is indeed something that went wrong somewhere.

Huh, funny how that is possible and people constantly complain about the Rogue being a bad class.

Anyway, increase HP if players build characters like that.


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I believe that PF2e has the potential to be a good system for all, I really do.

I believe the chief cause for concern right now, for myself, is that the classes are too homogeneous due to a combination of proficiency being too weak as a system at this time and magic being overly nerfed.

I want it understood that overall, the direction that Paizo is going is good in my eyes, simply because it is removing the splat-books from contention for a while and I genuinely hope they slow down splat-book publishing to ensure balance.

The flip side to that is they really need to move away from the equal level challenges should be a 50/50 win chance thing they have going on. I personally find the easiest solution being a buff to the proficiency system, not adjustment of the DC table, that coincides with additions to the objective DC tables so we have some mile-stones and examples of high level activities for design of our adventures. I truly believe it is up to the GM to determine the DC's of challenges in his world, so long as there is a baseline chart with 1-2 examples of a given DC at various levels, this gives the GM creative balance and the player a baseline to figure out how to be good at what.

The other issue I see needing a correction is the utility level of magic. Utility magic needs to be buffed. Save DCs are way too high to hit with the number of spell slots casters have.

Blasting is an issue, I agree to a point, but it is one I don't know how to solve, because I don't believe a caster needs to be dps focused.

Ultimately, Paizo will handle this as they wish, I merely want to be heard and considered as a customer, since this is a product I plan to invest heavily in.

I would play as the system is right now, but only because I do a lot of very heavy world building and can fix the things I don't agree with. But I'd really rather they fixed a few of the numbers balance issues they have, that are working against players having fun right now.

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In the last decade or so I've come to the conclusion that balance is to be avoided in good RPGs. Too much balance leads to homogeneity, and you end up with a situation where characters might not even be allowed to mechanically differ, but differ only in fluff. I find such games boring to engage with the "game" portion of, even though the roleplaying aspect is obviously fine.

What I prefer is a careful, deliberate imbalance, where characters are allowed to be better at some thing and worse at others. This, coupled with good adventure design, allows players to each have their times to feel special. It's bad when one character is always better or always worse, which is why the imbalance has to be careful.

The issue, by the way, with making all options "worth taking," is that if every option is equally good in all situations/builds then your choice is meaningless. Ideally, each options helps build toward a useful, functional concept, but that still makes options that don't fit your concept "traps" because they could be terrible without their matching stuff.


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How important is balance? IMO, very.

How people define balance gets tricky, for me it means relatively meaningful choices with opportunity cost with only moderate differences between optimized and casual centered around meaningful baseline assumptions.

It is a very large reason I stopped spending anything on 3.5, spent nothing on Pathfinder, while spending hundreds on 5e even if it still needed some balance tweaking. And it is the reason I am planning on buy essentially every P2 product. With relatively small changes(most importantly removing +level) P2 will be the best system for the kind of games I want to run.


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I think the method for measuring balance is more important than the balance itself.

One of my players made the joke already that someone at Paizo snapped their fingers to create perfect balance and half their customers dissipated.


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Balance is less important than the ability to do something interesting. I'm the kind of person who will read every guide in existence and then decide to make the best support-only Net-using ranger the world has ever seen. To use an example of a more competitive game, I don't particularly enjoy OU despite it being the format that has the biggest emphasis on balance. I prefer the inherently less-balanced formats like monotype because the equivalent of running an all-bard party is more interesting than a "real" team comp.

As a more mathy analogy, I enjoy games that allow for a large magnitude of optimization spread, provided they do not significantly restrict the direction of that optimization.


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Probably the worst feeling in Pathfinder is playing a character that you thought had some fun and flavourful mechanics and then realizing that you are actually super weak in combat. Having the wizard just end every fight while you fail at your abilities just absolutely sucks. So yeah balance is really important. PF1e had trash balancing but we would usually put impediments on ourselves where if someone wanted to play something a bit weaker, we wouldn't go all out min maxing. But it still felt crappy when everyone is making characters talking about min maxed stuff and then you want to make something different.

So far we haven't had a problem of someone not contributing to combat at all in the playtest. Which is really impressive since we have had around 8 sessions now.


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Great to hear your not having balance issues yet Dire Ursus. Is your group happy with what's been removed? Would you be willing to accept more imbalance to get some back?


Matthew Downie wrote:
The Once and Future Kai wrote:
To use an analogy, let's say that our player characters are superheroes... One of them is Wonder Woman, one of them is the Flash, and one of them is Green Arrow. I'm okay with that pretty broad spread of power level.

Immortal who can fly and has super strength and is largely bulletproof and is a master of all weapons. Has magic unbreakable lasso that can compel people to tell the truth.

Superhero who is so fast he can win battles against regular opponents before they even know he's there. Can also create whirlwinds, travel in time, and in general solve most problems by running round in circles and talking about molecules.

Guy who is good at firing arrows but doesn't want to kill anyone so uses arrows with boxing gloves on the end.

That's a pretty broad spread.

I stumbled into the standard trap for superhero analogies... Which version of the superheroes? Do they get all of their decades of abilities? Though, let's be fair, Green Arrow could be described as a billionaire mayor with a trick arrow for every situation.

But, yes, I'm comfortable with a pretty broad power spread as long as less optimized characters are still relevant. And not just relevant because the optimized player threw them a bone or the GM tailored an encounter specifically for them. I'm the kind of player who has fielded a non-augmented character in a cyberpunk campaign; I'm okay with characters being signficantly weaker, just not irrelevent.

As it is - I'm happy with the direction of the Playtest rules. For one I want challenging tactical combat and the core rules accomplish this well in my opinion. I also like how modular the system is and, even without creation guidelines, that it offers a clear framework for me to create homebrew material. I'm not as pleased with Exploration mode...it feels very restricted and I reported that in the surveys. But, for balance, it's easier to unbalance via homebrew than to balance. I could easily up the success rate with a simple houserule like "double the prof bonus."


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Nah I'm pretty done with the imbalance of PF1e. Probably won't be playing it anymore once PF2e does release. Among other problems such as ease of use, and brain dead combat for martials.

I'm really happy with the playtest. And each update has been addressing more and more of my concerns.


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Balance is favourable/desirable, but not at the cost of homogeneity. Something I feel happened with 4th Ed, and so far the playtest is leaning a bit that way.


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I don't real see any point in trying to balance a game where everyone's playing on the same side. If the players and GM are having fun nothing else really matters. If they're not, the goal should be to make the game more fun - which may or may not involve modifying certain rules, but is, at most, only tangentially connected to the concept of balance.

On a related note, due to variations in playstyle, campaign, etc. I'm not really convinced it's even possible to 'balance' a tabletop RPG in a way that will actually withstand contact with reality.


Crayon wrote:
On a tangential note, due to variations in playstyle, campaign, etc. I'm not really convinced it's even possible to 'balance' a tabletop RPG in a way that will actually withstand contact with reality.

This is true, even 4th Ed needed patches, weapon feat taxes for higher levels (monsters outstrip the PCs), curb the orbizard stun-lock routine, then the monster math fixes in MM3, plus constant errata to try to keep everything under control.


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Crayon wrote:
I don't real see any point in trying to balance a game where everyone's playing on the same side. If the players and GM are having fun nothing else really matters.

Suppose I'm the GM and the players are having fun but I'm not because I have to waste my precious spare time rewriting all the encounters in the adventure I'm running because their characters are much stronger/weaker than expected?

Or suppose the players aren't having fun because one of the party is a crossbow specialist doing 9 points of damage per round while the optimized characters are doing 100 points of damage per round?

Some things can't really be balanced. (How do you compare 'good Fortitude save' to 'can teleport'?) But similar things that can be balanced, should be.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Crayon wrote:

I don't real see any point in trying to balance a game where everyone's playing on the same side. If the players and GM are having fun nothing else really matters. If they're not, the goal should be to make the game more fun - which may or may not involve modifying certain rules, but is, at most, only tangentially connected to the concept of balance.

On a tangential note, due to variations in playstyle, campaign, etc. I'm not really convinced it's even possible to 'balance' a tabletop RPG in a way that will actually withstand contact with reality.

The point is that without balance you end up with players having vastly different power/versatility levels of their PCs, leading to a bad experience. The game could even be fully cooperative and yet imbalanced despite the lack of GM and any aspect of antagonism.


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Balance is very important. Diversity of character options is also very important. This is why the goals as stated by Jason include both of these things:

- "a more balanced play environment where every character has a chance to contribute to the adventure in a meaningful way"

and

- "customization, flexibility of story, and rules that reward those who take the time to master them".

The two goals may in many cases be at odds, but I think it is wrong to frame every move towards one of them to be a move against the other. The designers try to reach all the goals as best they can: It's a balancing act there, too.

In my opinion and experience, 3.5 was unbalanced at the start, but workable. Then, over the years as many additional books were published and the player community at large grew more expert at optimization within the rules, they became totally unbalanced, to the point that a game with all books allowed is unplayable without major house rules and interpretations.

PF1 then followed more or less the same path: Originally its balance was imperfect but OK-ish, and after 10 years of many more spells, classes, feats being published, it's clearly out of whack (not as bad as 3.5, but still).

It's reasonable to expect PF2 to have the same trajectory. Right now, it's not out yet, and the playtest book may err on the side of too much balance and not enough customization - which is fine for an Alpha release. Hopefully, the final book will be closer to the desirable point of good balance and good customization. Then, with future books, I expect customization will eventually win. If this ever goes to the point of breaking balance too blatantly, then it might be time for PF3... Hopefully, not until another 10+ years.


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gwynfrid wrote:
PF1 then followed more or less the same path: Originally its balance was imperfect but OK-ish, and after 10 years of many more spells, classes, feats being published, it's clearly out of whack (not as bad as 3.5, but still).

I would disagree; I feel the balance is much better now than it was originally. You could take a core-only PF1 Wizard and put it into a typical Pathfinder game today and it would play perfectly fine, even side-by-side with another Wizard who uses all the rulebooks. It's true you'd be missing out on some very powerful options the other wizard would have, but nothing that would stop you from contributing and having fun. There's always been overpowered stuff for those who want to to reach out to make use of it, and little has changed in that regard. But the weaker classes now have the options to contribute as more powerful and fleshed out characters, and that's a huge improvement. If you compare classes like the Rogue, Monk, or Fighter to where they were in core they have come a long way and are almost incomparable to their state in core.

I would agree with others in this thread who note that balance and customization are not always opposed to each other. There are many cases in which good balance decisions can help customizability from preventing certain choices from becoming centralizing. That doesn't change the fact that the more tools you put in a player's toolbox, the more ways they'll have to build completely unanticipated and potentially broken combinations.

Most if not all people who play Pathfinder 1st edition knew what they were getting into with regards to its balance situation, or at very least if they stick around for long enough they'll find out about it. Those of us playing Pathfinder today do so in spite of (or perhaps, at some level, because of) that. I certainly don't advocate for Paizo to give up on balance, but at the same time I don't want them to be afraid of things breaking. Experienced GM's knows their game world is going to be broken the moment the players enter it, and the whole process becomes far more enjoyable when they embrace that. Game designers are one step further up the chain, but in same ways I think the principle is the same.


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Depends on what you mean by balance.

Balance meaning 'the fighter and barbarian and blaster wizard always put out the same damage mathematically on average' that's lame and un-fun.

Balance meaning 'everyone at the table can contribute' - that's fun.

The 2nd one is where Pathfinder failed out the gate with Core (monk+rogue) and by sheer volume of feats over time as well. Timmy feats are real - skill focus on anything other than a role playing (90%+) heavy game focused on skills is a worthless feat, it's just a single example. Having feats that are only useful for NPC's - or only useful for niche builds/concepts is *fine* - but it'd be useful for the books almost to use the good 'ole fashioned 'blue/green/orange/red' color code in the class writeup with 'suggested feats' - this would be more helpful to new people than almost anything else.

Paizo could put out a 96 page softcover every year with 'character concepts and builds' and people would buy it. This is kind of hitting me as an epiphany atm - but I think the over-desire to flatten out the rules is cutting off a viable product line for them, that would only get more valuable as the rules line got longer. I suspect that they had lackluster response to the 'strategy guide' compared to how they hoped - sad because that book has done more for getting new people up to speed than anything else that I've had. Hardcover price and core rules only limited the selection though - a softcover book form with a annual publication that focused on 'build robin hood', 'build naruto' type of thing would be popular IMO.

Sorry I got side tracked. Balance should mean we all contribute - we as players are all over the place with what we want though - we want to stand in front of a dragon the size of an office building, take the fire to the face, damage that dragon with scales as thick as tank armor with a sword, but then get upset if someone suggested that the same attack might cut a steel door in two.

As long as magic can do things that mundane can't do - you'll have a disparity - the trick is to make the rest of the table still feel useful - and that means they should have options that keep the wizard from having to cast a spell for every problem.

Spider climb is a problem? No - make some classes really good at climbing anything outside of fantastic stuff - then the wizard doesn't need to spider climb. Freedom of Movement too powerful? Perhaps grab is overused as a monster gimmick so it seems too powerful when it's nullified. Flying enemies require magic to fight? Have a solid rules section for how to down flyers with mundane equipment. Spells from 300 yards away too hard? Change the rules so that good cover reduces damage from bombardments at range - so a sneak attack fireball might work, but the 2nd and 3rd are useless.

I mean there are ways to work through the spell issue without nerfing everything into the ground - but it requires thinking that you can do things like 'clip a wing' without a feat.


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I remember a Pathfinder campaign we played just after the release of the Advanced Player's Guide. The six-member party was a fighter, rogue, alchemist, cavalier, oracle, and summoner. I noticed during the fights that the summoner's eidolon would kill half the enemies, my alchemist would kill a quarter of the enemies, and the rest of the party would kill the remaining quarter of the enemies. That was unbalanced.

Later on, the GM figured out that the summoner player had misunderstood the summoner rules, which were new to all of us, and given the eidolon way too many evolution points. As for the alchemist, the homebrew campaign sent mobs of 1st-level minions at us through narrow streets or on narrow docks, perfect bombing opportunities.

The summoner player quit out of boredom. My alchemist adopted a strategy of mixing extracts in the morning and handing them to the fighter so that he could self-buff. A druid joined the group. The party became more balanced.

Except for the boredom of the summoner player, and my frustration at the sandbox plot of the campaign where I as a player invented the new adventures after we defeated the 1st-level mobs and their bosses, we had a good time. Balance is not necessary for roleplaying.


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Ckorik wrote:

Depends on what you mean by balance.

Balance meaning 'the fighter and barbarian and blaster wizard always put out the same damage mathematically on average' that's lame and un-fun.

Balance meaning 'everyone at the table can contribute' - that's fun.

The 2nd one is where Pathfinder failed out the gate with Core (monk+rogue) and by sheer volume of feats over time as well. Timmy feats are real - skill focus on anything other than a role playing (90%+) heavy game focused on skills is a worthless feat, it's just a single example. Having feats that are only useful for NPC's - or only useful for niche builds/concepts is *fine* - but it'd be useful for the books almost to use the good 'ole fashioned 'blue/green/orange/red' color code in the class writeup with 'suggested feats' - this would be more helpful to new people than almost anything else.

Paizo could put out a 96 page softcover every year with 'character concepts and builds' and people would buy it. This is kind of hitting me as an epiphany atm - but I think the over-desire to flatten out the rules is cutting off a viable product line for them, that would only get more valuable as the rules line got longer. I suspect that they had lackluster response to the 'strategy guide' compared to how they hoped - sad because that book has done more for getting new people up to speed than anything else that I've had. Hardcover price and core rules only limited the selection though - a softcover book form with a annual publication that focused on 'build robin hood', 'build naruto' type of thing would be popular IMO.

Sorry I got side tracked. Balance should mean we all contribute - we as players are all over the place with what we want though - we want to stand in front of a dragon the size of an office building, take the fire to the face, damage that dragon with scales as thick as tank armor with a sword, but then get upset if someone suggested that the same attack might cut a steel door in two.

As long as magic can do things that mundane can't do...

Great post, and I am hoping for high level (not so keen on the UTEML titles) non-casters to be able to pull off some sick stunts (ripping a demon's head with their bare hands kind of stuff, swim for extended periods of time, etc).


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I think the fundamental points I consider which touch on balance are:

1) Players should not be able to make choices which they are incapable of taking back which they come to regret. Generous retraining rules help here, but there's no recourse for "I should have played a different class; this one sucks."

2) I want the game to run smoothly with appropriate friction to generate tension. When there are huge spikes of party competency depending on what builds people have, it's basically impossible to do this and you have to come up with ad hoc solutions as the GM all the darn time (else you just rely on the Wizard *player* deciding not to ruin things.)


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Balance is dependant upon viewpoints.

In 1e; a crowd controlling/buffing wizard that is enhancing and enabling the rest of the group with optimized DC's is probably overpowered from a GM's point of view but because he is helping others with his own might, no player really minds them being around. An optimized blaster however will deal damage, and thus be "competing" with other damage roles in the party and will likely be the subjects to balance discussions if doing more damage then other people in the role.

Personally (as is true for most of my tables for that matter); i value options and theme a lot more than i value balance. In the end, if someone is playing a stronger character, they (as players) can just hold back a little bit to be in line with the rest of the group or at least allow others to shine during the moments they specialized for.

I just think roughly equal if covering simular roles within a group would be balance, which at this point in the system isn't quite the case.

For example: as a skillmonkey rogue vs an attempted skillmonkey fighter will have a large gap between them. A martially inclined sorcerer will struggle a lot more to hit anything with his weapons then a martial character with sorcerer dedication, etc.


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Ckorik wrote:

Depends on what you mean by balance.

Balance meaning 'the fighter and barbarian and blaster wizard always put out the same damage mathematically on average' that's lame and un-fun.

Balance meaning 'everyone at the table can contribute' - that's fun..

This is exactly the key right here. Every class should be viable. Every player should be able to pick a class, stack on some racial stuff and feats and gear, and end up with a playable character that can contribute meaningfully to the story.

Not every class needs to be #1 DPR or the best skill monkey or the best at handling RP encounters, etc., but every class should feel like they contribute to every game session. Every player needs to feel like their character matters. Even if THIS encounter is not in my wheelhouse and I'm not contributing my fair share right now, well, that's OK because the last encounter was ideal for me and I was a major contributor.

The Avengers don't expect the Hulk to shoot airborne enemies, they don't expect Thor to solve science problems, and don't expect the Black Widow to knock down a building that's in their way. But each member of the team contributes something during the course of the story.

That kind of balance is perfect. It's fun. It makes everybody happy. Heck, I even think that when I have an encounter that is NOT my character's ideal situation, it just makes me enjoy MY encounters even more. Win/win.

The other kind of balance, where the Hulk needs to be sciency and have a big gun, and where every Avenger is strong enough to pick up a locomotive and smash buildings with it and they can all fly like Iron Man and use magic like Dr. Strange and...

No thanks. Too boring.


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Dasrak wrote:
gwynfrid wrote:
PF1 then followed more or less the same path: Originally its balance was imperfect but OK-ish, and after 10 years of many more spells, classes, feats being published, it's clearly out of whack (not as bad as 3.5, but still).
I would disagree; I feel the balance is much better now than it was originally. You could take a core-only PF1 Wizard and put it into a typical Pathfinder game today and it would play perfectly fine, even side-by-side with another Wizard who uses all the rulebooks. It's true you'd be missing out on some very powerful options the other wizard would have, but nothing that would stop you from contributing and having fun. There's always been overpowered stuff for those who want to to reach out to make use of it, and little has changed in that regard. But the weaker classes now have the options to contribute as more powerful and fleshed out characters, and that's a huge improvement. If you compare classes like the Rogue, Monk, or Fighter to where they were in core they have come a long way and are almost incomparable to their state in core.

You have a point. Indeed, the updates of the Monk and Rogue have made up for a portion of the imbalance. On the other hand, the casters have gotten a bunch of additions as well. On the whole it may be that the worst of the weak classes have gotten a boost, but I don't think that's enough to correct the imbalances. On top of that, this evolution has vastly expanded the size and complexity of the rules, to the point that a beginner player doesn't stand a chance unless helped by experts, class guides, etc. In practice, this makes balance issues worse, because the experts will select the strongest options most of the time, while the newbies will not find them and end up in a severely suboptimal place.

On the whole I think we're still in a position with PF1 where balance is a major problem. Not to the point that it's not playable, but certainly to the point that it requires significant effort and expertise by players and GMs to keep it from creating issues at the table.

To take the example of my own campaign (I know this is purely anecdotal and not necessarily representative of anything), I have to be constantly on the lookout for this, because my group mixes power players with a lot of experience together with players with less expertise and less engagement with the rules. Keeping the game interesting for everyone requires me to devote a lot of time to checking character sheets, which I'd rather spend on developing the story.


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Look I just want a game where I have decent odds of doing well. With any class, and maybe a few sub par picks because I like the idea or think it fits my character better.

Wizard little ahead of me? Okay. Fighter doing 1.5-2x my damage? Also fine. As long as I can have my area of expertise and build rewarded in some way, without having the GM need to do a lot more work, I'm happy.

That's not to say PF1 isn't/wasn't a mess at times. Or you have instances where a low level spell invalidates the rest of the party. But I've largely avoided that.

I would like however the Balance to matter little enough that when I show up to a random game or PFS, I'm not expected to have my numbers at X or else I'm bad and the game isn't for me. And I don't see PF2 changing that.

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