How important is balance?


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PF1 could use a pass combining several abilities that are similar but incompatible and irregular in power. Choosing the bad version of something shouldn't be as much an option as it is currently. It also needs a pass focused on providing narrative power to non-casters equivalent to giving all non-casters leadership.

Unfortunately, I don't see the issue of bad versions of options being addressed at all with the feat siloing and things like druid leaf order, or superstitious barbarian. We're still seeing bad ways of doing certain things, and the tight math of the game makes those bad options much worse. Also, the way that feats interact with other abilities to limit their level of interaction, feels very unrewarding.

I agree with those saying that balancing things other than raw numbers output is important. Unfortunately, PF2 seems very focused on the numbers balancing but does so in a way that makes the end result strangely punishing for unoptimized characters. It seems like they've brought down the ceiling without raising the floor, and in doing so have just made the game more flat without being much more balanced. They have however lowered the ceiling on narrative balance enough that it's all about the same level of nothing.


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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. 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.

I strongly agree with this. The objective of the game is fun, for all involved. That's why you are there!

I am not in any way convinced that balance is inherent to fun - I've seen people have lots of fun with widely varied characters in every edition from red box onwards. I've seen people have fun in widely varied systems - Palladium (Rifts, their superhero game, TMNT), Paranoia, Gurps, Call of Chtulu... I don't think a common factor is balance. None of those are "balanced" unlike say 4th edition was. Heck, 5th edition is less balanced than 4th, and it is much more popular (and thus presumably fun).

Key things for fun are, IMO:
a) Rules that don't break setting immersion - some examples, your oh so special animal companion horse being 40% slower than a regular horse (Double Action Gallop = 100 ft vs Double Action Gallop + Stride Action for 140ft). Or heavy armor is functionally no better than light armor...

b) Rules that are Cool and grab the imagination.
Sorcerers standing around and saying "well, my magic attack spell is so inefficient I'd be personally better using a bow, never mind trying to use magic to keep up with Jimmy the archery specialized ranger over there..." is not cool.
Saying "Whee I finally learned the teleport ritual, but I still can't use it to visit Absalom, because I would need 20 days, 20 successful castings (without failures, never mind critical fails), and a bunch of island in exactly the right places due to the 100 mile range limit. Not to mention I would get their just as fast in a ship anyways (2400 nautical miles/5 knots = 480 hrs = 20 days)..." Is not cool.
Rogues saying I can't pick this lock because I need multiple critical successes, and I'm equally likely to get a critical fail and break my picks. Is not cool.

Cool and not breaking immersion <> balanced. Reality has a nasty habit of not being fair! Someone who can cheat the local laws of physics is going to be at a big advantage compared to someone who can't! Heck bringing a friend (animal companion) to a fight is going to be a huge advantage compared to coming alone...

If Paizo doesn't figure this out, this edition is going to flop. Paizo may go with it.


pad300 wrote:


b) Rules that are Cool and grab the imagination.
Sorcerers standing around and saying "well, my magic attack spell is so inefficient I'd be personally better using a bow, never mind trying to use magic to keep up with Jimmy the archery specialized ranger over there..." is not cool.

Sorcerers are not defined by one school of magic, even if the situation for that one school were as dire as your narrative suggests.

To your other points, I too <3 PF1 Druids as a class. The playtest Druid, while different, is also fun. My pet velociraptor and flying cat familiar say hi.

Shadow Lodge

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John Lynch 106 wrote:
How important is balance?

One of the top priorities, but balanced against other considerations.


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I find that I only really care about balance within the group. Things outside of that aren’t so important so long as the players are all able to contribute and the DM isn’t overwhelmed. Initially class balance in the 3e era systems was something that bothered me since those systems seem to give the impression that all the classes are roughly balanced with each other. But soon enough I became apparent that this wasn’t the case and with that knowledge insuring that the group was roughly on the same level became much easier. In fact, once I came to the conclusion that a balanced group is what really matters I found that the lack of class balance in the 3.0 based systems was actually beneficial in some ways. Having a large spread of power levels among the classes allowed for making quite different campaigns by merely choosing a power level and having everyone make something around there. One could play a high powered game of universe shaking heroes by choosing the powerful classes or a more down to earth game by choosing a lower power level set of classes.


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Matthew Downie wrote:
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.

I can't say I've ever played a game where the encounters were balanced as written for my players all the time. Whether it was 4th ed, PF1e or D&D 5th edition I've always had to scale combats up or down (PF1e I had the best luck with because I found simply lagging the players in either wealth or level resulted in more balanced fights. But even then I've had to tone down fights even if the players were at the correct level with the correct WBL. No such tricks were possible due to how the 1/2 bonus to everything meant that monsters of too far a level were unhittable or unmissable. 5th edition was also bad until I started rewriting encounters and ignored the encounter guidelines).


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My goals for balance are decently simple.

I want a level 14 character, for example, to feel like a level 14 character. I've given the slayer/shadowdancer example a bunch of times because it was so egregious, but another one (in published material, at that) is a certain NPC enemy who's a wizard 5/alchemist 4/technomancer 4 or something like that. I'm pretty sure my party could have taken that at level 9 instead of the 13 he was encountered at. This is also somewhat true of the mystic theurge in my current game.
Point is, I heavily dislike trap options, so I want to see the floor raised so that a level 14 feels, at worst, like a level 13. Same thing for the upper end, where a level 14 should be numerically, at best, a level 15. I'll also note that, for comparison purposes, I'm talking about two characters focused into the same aspect.

Where I would like to see more variety is in what those two characters can do with those scores. To be clear, I feel that while the Playtest is doing a decent job in distinguishing characters in that respect, I think it can do more and be better in that respect. For example, if I had two Alchemists with a strong Athletics score, I'd like to see the ability to focus on jumping movement vs combat Maneuvers vs climbing/swimming. This is another spot where I feel the Playtest can do better. For example, Legendary Climber/Swimmer, though they're certainly good, really aren't that interesting, especially compared to things like Wall Jump. (Complete honesty: Wall Jump is something I'm rebuilding one of my high-level PF1 alchemists around.) There are quite a few other ones, like Medicine, which are profoundly uninteresting between trained and legendary.

Last thing: I'd like to see certain classes better at some things than others. I'm not advocating for complete exclusivity - I'm actually not quite sure where I stand on the Playtest's way of doing it currently - but I do want to see some level of niche protection. I don't want it to be like the PF1 Fighter, where everyone could do the same things at a high enough level that the Fighter had nothing to attract but slightly bigger numbers.


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gwynfrid wrote:
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.

I'm not framing every move towards one as a move away from the other. I've mentioned specifically the ones Jason called out as the most problematic when balancing the game and and am discussing whether or not people would accept less balance to get those elements included, or if not then where do they draw the line in things being removed for the goal of balance.

As for 10 years vs 1 playtest: people keep missing the point when there are complaints of lack of options. Its got nothing to do with the number of supplements and everything to do with how the rules are structured. Next time you see someone make that complaint ask them which would have more diverse options: PF1e CRB only or the playtest. I expect most times people will say CRB only.

Finally with the idea that everything will be ok in the final rules: Having read my posts Jason felt comfortable saying he thinks the final product will not be to my taste and that the new edition may simply not be for me. This would likely hold true for anyone who regularly agrees with me. So that hope is unlikely to come to fruition without the feedback everyone gives suddenly changing.


John Lynch 106 wrote:


As for 10 years vs 1 playtest: people keep missing the point when there are complaints of lack of options. Its got nothing to do with the number of supplements and everything to do with how the rules are structured. Next time you see someone make that complaint ask them which would have more diverse options: PF1e CRB only or the playtest. I expect most times people will say CRB only.

I'm going to heavily disagree with this. CRB had more diverse options only as far as being able to write bigger numbers or write differing class levels. There's also technically a small exemption in Animate Dead, but I think that's because they're trying to figure out how to handle traditionally evil spells. A CRB Paladin, for example, has only nominal differences to another one.

I will concede that there are technically high level feat chains that no longer exist, such as Whirlwind Attack. I'll argue, though, that the high level of requirements for those made only certain characters built for that able to use those anyways.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Not to mention the fact that Whirlwind Attack was a poster example of a trap option.

Liberty's Edge

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I want a balanced game, but that doesn't mean I want a symmetrical one.


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Balance is an interesting thing. too balanced systems are unfun. I'd lean on "let everyone shine bright in their specialty". the problems are when that area is overly broad, like "magic", or "combat". being good at combat is not inherently an unbalanced thing in a game that centers on roleplaying more, but in a dnd game or dnd clone, everyone has to have ways to meaningfully contribute


John Lynch 106 wrote:
gwynfrid wrote:
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.
I'm not framing every move towards one as a move away from the other. I've mentioned specifically the ones Jason called out as the most problematic when balancing the game and and am discussing whether or not people would accept less balance to get those elements included, or if not then where do they draw the line in things being removed for the goal of balance.

Fair enough. You mentioned 3 things, so I'll see if I can answer the question specifically towards them: Would I be prepared to forgo these things for the sake of better balance?

- PF1-style background traits: I like PF1's traits a lot, they're cool and they help fleshing the character out. But I agree with Jason that they're easily abused by optimizers, as they offer too many ways the characters can get unbalanced. Also, a few of them are clearly way stronger than most, some stronger than feats. But the reason I'm prepared to let them go isn't balance, it's complexity: These days, I can barely select a trait without referring to the handy guide, a huge time saver. Another example: In my current AP campaign, I allowed only one trait, taken from the player's guide, because I didn't want to overwhelm my newbie players.

- PF1 style alternate racial traits: These suffer from some of the balance issues of the background traits, but to a lesser degree. They're easier to manage, too. So, I would disagree with a decision to remove them in favor of balance. That's why I'm in favor of more ancestry feats that the current PF2 playtest allows (both more options and more such feats at character creation).

- 3.5 style multiclassing: PF1's balance issues here are obvious, with so many trap options, level dipping issues, etc. Losing the career change narrative is a bummer maybe, but on the whole I think I'm OK to let this one go. On top of that, I really like PF2 multiclassing, it is simpler, easier to use and more elegant than the traditional system. YMMV, of course.


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Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Gorbacz wrote:
Not to mention the fact that Whirlwind Attack was a poster example of a trap option.

Why do you say that?

I have seen it used effectively at high level as well as at low level.

It is especially effective if the character doing the whirlwind can do both reach attacks and close attacks.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Y'know, I just took a look at the Starfinder CRB, and it reminded me eerily of how Star Wars Saga was a middle child between 3.5 and 4E, where the good ideas ended up in Star Wars Saga and somehow then what they learned with that game led to the mess that was 4E. I really hope history doesn't repeat itself here.


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I feel balance between classes is an important aspect in tabletop games, and there are times where I am hesitant to even try some systems when it turns out some of my favorite classes are weak like how rogues were in 3.5 or how paladins are in 13th age. The ranger would be the same case too in 5e if it weren't for the revised version or the homebrewed balance fixes for said revised version.

That said, when I try to make characters for pathfinder, I usually gravitate towards 6/9 casters like the magus, the alchemist, or the eldritch scoundrel, mainly because they have a good amount of options, handle combat well, and can contribute to a variety of different challenges without overshadowing characters that specialize in handling said problems. What I want is for martials/non-casters to have that something like that too. To me, it feels like most martials in pf1 devolve into "I full-round attack" and cant contribute too well in non-combat situations.


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Mistwalker wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
Not to mention the fact that Whirlwind Attack was a poster example of a trap option.

Why do you say that?

I have seen it used effectively at high level as well as at low level.

Lots of people like declaring something is a trap, and it's probably true for their group. E.g. Someone earlier declared that Skill Focus was a trap (I currently taken it on my CRB Rogue that has at best a couple of archetypes and a 2 level dip into Ranger which ultimately turned out to not be a better choice then going straight Ranger). The optimisation guides are rife with such declarations.

For me, Skill Focus (when taken through the human alternate racial trait) is actually a tempting choice and one I've taken twice over the years. Other people see it as a trap and bad.

That's another problem with removing things in the name of balance: They're not unbalanced for everyone so you're removing perfectly options that are perfectly viable for some groups. What we're getting in place of the removed options (class feats and each feat category being segregated so extremely) can taste bland to some people.


Matthew Downie wrote:

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.

Well, hypothetically, you'd first have to find out if the players are deliberately cultivating the imbalance or not and how central that imbalance is to their enjoyment of the game. Depending upon their answers you might alter how certain abilities function or maybe the players would agree to take over certain additional preparatory tasks to make things easier on the GM. Either way, balance as an end in itself isn't helpful.

Gorbacz wrote:
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.

Thing is, I don't think imbalance, in and of itself, does necessarily lead to a bad gaming experience.

I don't quite understand the second sentence of your post, however.


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Crayon wrote:
Either way, balance as an end in itself isn't helpful.

Speaking of lessons learned for the WotC team: D&D 4th ed taught them that they had overemphasised how important balance is. That doesn't mean they didn't abandon seeking balance, but they tempered it with other goals (like the game actually being inviting to play and enjoyable at the table).

Hence this discussion as to whether or not people think the playtest book has hit the right mark in getting balance vs other goals (I obviously don't think it has).


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5e has less spellslots than pathfinder 1 (or heck pf2), but spell power still felt quite powerful, and some spells are stronger than their pathfinder counterparts, such as the case of invisibility (which lasts for an hour as compared to a min per cl) and hypnotic pattern (which no longer depends on enemy hd and has it's radius doubled, though it is a 3rd lvl). Granted, some of this was alleviated by ritual rules that let you cast certain utility spells without expending slots. Not to mention the cantrips compared much better to martial attacks in 5e.

Sure the math is different than in pf2e, and concentration functions differently, but I think it's a good model.


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BluLion wrote:
5e has less spellslots than pathfinder 1 (or heck pf2), but spell power still felt quite powerful

A small way in which spells have been nerfed is by bloating PC HPs. Monster HP haven't been bloated for the most part from what I have seen, but PCs have which means spells cast at PCs will be much less powerful then in PF1e or D&D 5e simply due to HP bloat.


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Balance is nice but as with all things, in moderation.

When you play the board game Dungeon! it’s baked right in that Wizards are stronger than Rogues and Clerics, but hey, we keep having fun playing Rogues and Clerics anyway.

4e was essentially perfectly balanced, but that felt homogenous and un-fun. 5e isn’t perfectly balanced, but people like it.


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magnuskn wrote:
Y'know, I just took a look at the Starfinder CRB, and it reminded me eerily of how Star Wars Saga was a middle child between 3.5 and 4E, where the good ideas ended up in Star Wars Saga and somehow then what they learned with that game led to the mess that was 4E. I really hope history doesn't repeat itself here.

I can see that; SWSE was a "snapshot" into 4th Ed design at the time, and then ToB/Bo9S, unfortunately for me, they went more with ToB, and less SWSE (it has several serious blunders, like +Heroic level, but otherwise a fantastic d20 game).


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Ronnam wrote:

Balance is nice but as with all things, in moderation.

When you play the board game Dungeon! it’s baked right in that Wizards are stronger than Rogues and Clerics, but hey, we keep having fun playing Rogues and Clerics anyway.

4e was essentially perfectly balanced, but that felt homogenous and un-fun. 5e isn’t perfectly balanced, but people like it.

At least that board game seems to have not lied about class power differences... If the 3E system's developers decided to be frank and like measured non-casters' CRs as much lower than now, I wouldn't have been this livid about that LFQW issue.

And 5E is incredibly fun in-play, yeah. For the first time in forever (snort), Monks can move and whack thrice via ki-charged fists without any accuracy penalties, way more truer to their genre of origin.


Lucas Yew wrote:
And 5E is incredibly fun in-play, yeah. For the first time in forever (snort), Monks can move and whack thrice via ki-charged fists without any accuracy penalties, way more truer to their genre of origin.

As a fan of the Monk class since 1st Ed AD&D (Grand Master of Flowers!), that is one class they really did justice with in 5th Ed. I played a monk in a RotR campaign for a bit, and that 3/4 BAB (pre-Unchained) really sucked some of the fun out.


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4E tried to get that goal of absolute balance.

Didn't work out that great.


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Igor Horvat wrote:

4E tried to get that goal of absolute balance.

Didn't work out that great.

No, because for me it came at the cost of homogeneity.


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John Lynch 106 wrote:
BluLion wrote:
5e has less spellslots than pathfinder 1 (or heck pf2), but spell power still felt quite powerful
A small way in which spells have been nerfed is by bloating PC HPs. Monster HP haven't been bloated for the most part from what I have seen, but PCs have which means spells cast at PCs will be much less powerful then in PF1e or D&D 5e simply due to HP bloat.

Really, Monster HP has not been bloated? Let's compare:

PF1 Troll:63 HP Regen 5
PF2 Troll:115 HP Regen 20 weakness fire 10

PF1 Ogre:30 HP
PF2 Ogre:60 HP

PF1 Hezrou: 145 HP assorted resistances and DR
PF2 Hezrou: 265 HP assorted weaknesses (wierdly including electricity to which they used to be immune)

PF1 Black Dragon (adult): 161 DR 5/magic
PF2 Black Dragon (adult): 195


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Igor Horvat wrote:

4E tried to get that goal of absolute balance.

Didn't work out that great.

I think it's really a bad idea to attribute "4e did x, therefore x is bad" since if you poll 20 people in this hobby about what went wrong with that edition, you will get 60 different answers.

I, for one, do not consider "balance" to be a problem with that edition; rather I count it as one of its strengths.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:
Igor Horvat wrote:

4E tried to get that goal of absolute balance.

Didn't work out that great.

I think it's really a bad idea to attribute "4e did x, therefore x is bad" since if you poll 20 people in this hobby about what went wrong with that edition, you will get 60 different answers.

I, for one, do not consider "balance" to be a problem with that edition; rather I count it as one of its strengths.

Cool, but that strength caused an utter weakness in the game, for me.


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Vic Ferrari wrote:
Cool, but that strength caused an utter weakness in the game, for me.

I think you are assuming that balance invariably leads to homogeneity, whereas I do not. Homogeneity is just one of the simplest ways to achieve balance, particularly when the game has a huge number of moving parts as do games in this family. Plenty of games with fewer moving parts are quite well balanced without feeling homogeneous, it's just that these don't scratch the same itch as do PF/D&D where "hey there is a rule for that" is one of the core aesthetic appeals.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:
Vic Ferrari wrote:
Cool, but that strength caused an utter weakness in the game, for me.
I think you are assuming that balance invariably leads to homogeneity, whereas I do not.

Well, you thought wrong; that's the problem with unfounded assumptions.


Malthraz wrote:

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.

...insert the usual "some of us love playing sidekicks and want that option available" rant here..


John Lynch 106 wrote:
I can't say I've ever played a game where the encounters were balanced as written for my players all the time. Whether it was 4th ed, PF1e or D&D 5th edition I've always had to scale combats up or down.

How are you defining balanced in this context ?

Every fight being roughly as difficult as the next seems very boring to me; either as player or as DM, I far prefer a wide range in how difficult fights are and no standardised expectation of how difficult they should be beyond "survivable unless you are proactively stupid", which is not a tight restriction.


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the nerve-eater of Zur-en-Aarh wrote:
Malthraz wrote:

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.

...insert the usual "some of us love playing sidekicks and want that option available" rant here..

I mean. I don't mind. Really depends on the character. I'm playing second fiddle now to 2-3 characters depending on instances. I still like my character as she still gets skill checks often enough, I'm not fully worthless in combat, and when battle ends 2 of those characters can't do much to patch up or get around some issues.

THAT said, I do agree that being overshadowed is an issue and being blown out of the water is a problem. My first character for this group was basically replaced when someone switched to Sorcerer and got a few wands to the point I was basically just an Adept. Meh.

In other games, I've seen a Summoner dominate while in another a Sythnsisit sit there. I've seen Martials(PoW) just wreck encounters while a spell caster or two doesn't know what to do. And I've seen the odd "This is my first time playing class X" get beat out everywhere by Class X with guide approved build #12424.

If a group wants to push the limits of the system, let'em. If a group wants to hold back for challenge, let'em. If a group favors RP and story over numbers and balance, let them have the game.

The issue comes in, from what I've seen, when you get different players and expectations at the same table.

Hope that wasn't too ranty.


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Honestly balance isnt all that relevant to me.

I make PCs i know are worse than others at the table all the time, what is relevant to me is that i will try to be atleast decent and go from there.

As long as my PC can have his "thing", i can make it work.

Honestly i would rather have "10 classes" completely different and unbalanced, than take options out of the game and make the game itself poor and bland.

Paizo Employee Customer Service & Community Manager

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Was going to remove a sarcastic and unhelpful post but the number of replies and replies to replies that would have also been deleted was extensive, plus that fact that it seems y'all have settled down makes than a less than optimal solution. Please remember that if you are uninterested in participating respectfully in a thread, you can just move on or wait until you are able to post in a way that does not negatively escalate the tension in a thread.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Vic Ferrari wrote:
magnuskn wrote:
Y'know, I just took a look at the Starfinder CRB, and it reminded me eerily of how Star Wars Saga was a middle child between 3.5 and 4E, where the good ideas ended up in Star Wars Saga and somehow then what they learned with that game led to the mess that was 4E. I really hope history doesn't repeat itself here.
I can see that; SWSE was a "snapshot" into 4th Ed design at the time, and then ToB/Bo9S, unfortunately for me, they went more with ToB, and less SWSE (it has several serious blunders, like +Heroic level, but otherwise a fantastic d20 game).

If it wasn't totally off-topic, I'd love to go a bit into why I kinda disagree about the +level in that game (it also wasn't as all-encompassing as with PF2E). But, alas. :)


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pad300 wrote:
I've seen people have fun in widely varied systems - Palladium (Rifts, their superhero game, TMNT), Paranoia, Gurps, Call of Chtulu... I don't think a common factor is balance. None of those are "balanced" unlike say 4th edition was.

It's important to note about what balance means to such a system such as Call of Cthulhu, Runequest the BRP line of games in General, GURPS and such, vs Pathfinder "Imbalance"

Yes, Those games are unbalanced in the sense that there exist common and identifiable mechanics which the player, regardless of effort may never truly be able to overcome. Many monsters in CoC will easily annihilate another player, let alone weapons in general. Similarly, Magic is by far a stronger option for players to take in these games.

However, that those games are unbalanced from that angle does NOT mean that those same options are the most versatile in the game or that there exists no sort of consequences for their use.

To even begin to look into casting spells, a player first has to read a mythos tome and take some SAN loss and a loss of maximim san via the increase of the Mythos skill. Then you need to be powerful enough to actually cast the spell. Then you must gather any sort of materials or sacrifice that the spell requires. Then the spell's casting time can vary from as little as a single round to hundreds of years.

After all this you still must sacrifice sanity with each casting of the spell, which is incredibly difficult to recover. Sure you can literally summon gods and travel near infinite distances across the cold vaccum of space, but just because you can doesn't mean you should.

Runequest is similar. Magic isn't trained or research and can only be increased by very specific tasks such as religious communions on your cults holy days, defeating a spirit in combat or overcoming a spell cast on you of a more powerful caliber than you are. Same principle. If you choose to pursue it, then you'll have a blast. But you won't be mechanically crippled if you don't choose to pursue that past.

It doesn't matter whether I choose to specialize my character in the fields of magic or martial arts. I have a world of options available to me whether I play a boring swordsman or a growing wizard. None of this silly "I stand still and full attack" business that at least 1e did all but make mandatory in the ruling descriptions.

These games don't have as much crunch as PF does over the years(*though I would still argue are more crunchy where it counts*), but the crunch that they do have is rarely ever punishing, useless or a straight up trap option. Because these games focus on strictly reinforcing action, agency and not "you get a +1 on your next attack"

"if you choose this other one then it becomes a +2 and then after that a +3. Awesome choices!"

It's not called Mathfinder or often described as a great character creation game for nothing. Pathfinder has a lot of crunch, but a lot of it is of questionable value. It's all numbers, numbers numbers. Even the more socially oriented traits still try their darnest to emphasize that +1.

Mind you, I still love the game for what it is even if it drives me bonkers sometimes.

TLDR; At least one of the games in question is imbalanced from power perspective but is built in such a way that a character can and will still be somewhat of a decently and versatile competent user of some more common skills with positive reinforcement while still being distinct enough on their own as a concept.


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PossibleCabbage wrote:
I think it's really a bad idea to attribute "4e did x, therefore x is bad"

Sure. But saying "4e did X and 4e was bad" isn't the same as "4e did X, therefore X is bad".

4e demonstrates that having a well balanced system does not guarantee you have a fun system*. That's why balance wasn't as strong a focus for D&D 5e as it was for D&D 4e. Based on the playtest material, balance certainly seems to be getting prioritised higher then I would certainly prefer.

*For certain values of fun.

the nerve-eater of Zur-en-Aarh wrote:
How are you defining balanced in this context ?

The encounter was enjoyable. I've run my fair share of "fight over in round 1" and "fight over before combat starts" and "the players had to slog through 20 rounds to get to the end*.

Balanced means there is at least a chance of the players succeeding at the combat (I typically run APs which are not sandbox affairs and so their level will typically be known give or take a level), but it also means we don't have 5 sessions worth of mook encounters (because as you said, having the same power level every combat gets boring).

*Almost always this is the result of deliberate player action.


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MerlinCross wrote:
the nerve-eater of Zur-en-Aarh wrote:
Malthraz wrote:

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.

...insert the usual "some of us love playing sidekicks and want that option available" rant here..

I mean. I don't mind. Really depends on the character. I'm playing second fiddle now to 2-3 characters depending on instances. I still like my character as she still gets skill checks often enough, I'm not fully worthless in combat, and when battle ends 2 of those characters can't do much to patch up or get around some issues.

THAT said, I do agree that being overshadowed is an issue and being blown out of the water is a problem. My first character for this group was basically replaced when someone switched to Sorcerer and got a few wands to the point I was basically just an Adept. Meh.

...

The issue comes in, from what I've seen, when you get different players and expectations at the same table.

Hope that wasn't too ranty.

I feel like this is starting to get to the heart of the problem. Balance (usually) requires tradeoffs. Due to all sorts of factors one table may have more fun with a more balanced game. Another table may not enjoy the game as much because of the tradeoffs that had to be made to achieve a higher level of balance.

Just to complicate things even more, there is the fact that there are lots of different things that could be called balance.
*equal contributions to combat
*Each class having at least one thing it can do best
*no class being strictly worse than another
*no class being strictly worse than another given certain common conditions
*not so out of whack that the player that only finds fun is creating strong characters can have fun alongside the player that just wants to not be completely overshadowed.
*few bad/trap options
*the classes all contribute in the specific kinds of campaigns that the GM runs.

To complicate things more the variations in the kinds of challenges/encounters/situations/whatever that the GM uses, and in what proportion they are used changes what options/tactics could be strong or weak.

If the question this thread was asking was "What kind of balance is important to your table?" the question is fairly easy for me to answer. In trying to answer it, the above factors started coming up and it became more difficult.

Because of the level of system mastery I have, the time I have to to work on campaigns, and how my players get along and how my more experienced players help my less experienced players make the cool character concepts they want, its ok that some classes can overshadow others because it never happens anyway and I can use my system knowledge to help even weaker characters contribute because I enjoy designing situations like that and have the time.

I am curious to see not just what people think about how much balance matters, but what the conditions are at their table(s) that have contributed to that stance. It may be appropriate to create a separate thread for that though.


ParcelRod wrote:
pad300 wrote:
I've seen people have fun in widely varied systems - Palladium (Rifts, their superhero game, TMNT), Paranoia, Gurps, Call of Chtulu... I don't think a common factor is balance. None of those are "balanced" unlike say 4th edition was.

It's important to note about what balance means to such a system such as Call of Cthulhu, Runequest the BRP line of games in General, GURPS and such, vs Pathfinder "Imbalance"

Nice strawman. I was talking about exactly what was being discussed in this thread - imbalance in capability between characters.

I won't speak to runequest, as I have never played it, but the systems I mentioned have huge variance in character capability.
Rifts - compare a rogue scholar to a hatchling dragon or a ley line walker.
Paranoia - compare the various mutations and secret societies. GURPS - look at a the characters in a fantasy campaign, and compare those with magery to those without - the mages will have much more capability.

Even Call of Cthulu, although everyone is wimpy & squishy compared to what you are investigating - the characters are not close to equal in capability.

Sovereign Court

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Some aspects of balance that help me enjoy the game:

One class doesn't make another obsolete like all the PF1 archetypes of classes that got Sneak Attack and a strong base of other class abilities.

Multiclassing into a class doesn't make you better at that class than playing that class directly a fighter with a barbarian dedication shouldn't be better at being a barbarian than a real barbarian. But it's fine if he's a real rough fighter.

Multiclassing isn't the best way by far to make your class function I don't think I've heard about any successful 100% wizards or sorcerers in the playtest. Pretty much all the success stories are about fighter dedication and basically playing a magus.

One feat, power or spell isn't so good that everyone has to have it During Sombrefell Hall 3/4 PCs had Attack of Opportunity, 3/4 had True Strike, 4/4 had Weapon Surge.

A core, signature class isn't so weak that nobody in his right mind wants to play it. PF1 chained rogues, PF2 non-dedicated wizards or sorcerers; every time you build one you think "given how unlikely it is my spells stick on important enemies, why wouldn't I just build a class that actually does work?"

The power difference between a player with endless time to research and all the books to go through, and a nice guy with a bit of spare time to make a fairly core character isn't too big. When playing in the same party, they should feel like they're both making an important contribution to the party. I think PF2's best bit here is by just making fewer things stack together. If you read a hundred PF2 books you can have a super flavorful character with all kinds of cool gadgets, but they won't stack up three times as high as the guy using only the core book.

No class is so indispensable that a party has to have it Like the PF2 cleric before Treat Wounds.

Each class has something different to offer that's valuable So if you already have two fighters, the party gains a lot more of the third guy picks a rogue, wizard or cleric instead.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Ascalaphus wrote:


One feat, power or spell isn't so good that everyone has to have it During Sombrefell Hall 3/4 PCs had Attack of Opportunity, 3/4 had True Strike, 4/4 had Weapon Surge.

Funny because I'm pretty sure the consensus best cleric domain power is healing font. Remember the game is early. Just because your players think something is really strong doesn't actually mean it is the best choice. Almost all of my players have taken the Fleet general feat. But I've been keeping track of how many times the extra 5 feet of movement actually mattered. It was surprisingly low. In a few situations it would have been better to take toughness or some other general feat.


I guess it depends on what you mean by "balance". Having lots of ways for characters to be viable is good. Not having one character totally overshadow the entire rest of the party is good. Needing to rely on other people to shine because you can't do everything yourself is good.

Everything being blah and relatively uninteresting as a result is not. Yet, looking at magic now, that's where we are. So many spells were nerfed so hard that they just feel largely pointless. Maybe it's more balanced, but it's also not fun or interesting to play.

It's fun to feel powerful, balance be damned.

Sovereign Court

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I think powerful and balanced go together, when powerful isn't powerful all the time in everything.

Example: the cleric who does massive healing and saves the fighter; cleric feels powerful. Because the fighter is still standing, he can hit the boss for lots of damage and he feels powerful.

This group is not unbalanced; both characters are good at something different and important.

If the cleric was just as good at fighting as the fighter but the fighter couldn't do the stuff the cleric could, then it wouldn't be balanced.


balance is not (only) about teammates being balanced with eachother, it's also about characters being balanced against the appropriate level challenges.

In this regard, I feel that Paizo went somewhat overboard with it.


the nerve-eater of Zur-en-Aarh wrote:
Malthraz wrote:

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.

...insert the usual "some of us love playing sidekicks and want that option available" rant here..

Is there a problem with playing a lower level character if that's what you want?


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Bluenose wrote:
Is there a problem with playing a lower level character if that's what you want?

I've never met anyone who wants to play a lower level character. If they do, the rest of the party probably don't want them to play a lower level character, because a weak ally might get them killed. If they're OK with that, the GM probably won't be, because it messes up the difficulty balance of the adventure.

But, if none of those things apply, go for it, I guess. At least you're doing it on purpose rather than accidentally making a weak character by accident through selecting bad options.


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Speaking to balance: PF2e has attempted to maintain strict balance at the cost of character diversity, I think a lot of us agree with that, but at the same time, they've introduced enough *imbalance* into their game that new players *will* still fall into traps. Some examples:
* See Brute Rogue discussion, strength-based rogues are bad.
* Barbarians are strictly worse than fighters. We *know* how much every +1 matters in this game, and +2 (weapon master) at level 3 for fighter (barbarians get no proficiency increases in weapons) *far* outweighs the +3 to damage Barbarians get.
* *ANY* combat-focused caster is bad. Fighters, Rangers, Rogues, and Paladins are the only classes to get weapon proficiency increases and are basically *required* to participate in melee (see "Chance to hit by class" spreadsheet that was posted).

So... you want to argue that balance is needed to avoid traps. Traps still exist. What's the point of balance, particularly when it limits character diversity?

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