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Author Topic: Poisonous Idea - Adventures should be realistic or balanced  (Read 6493 times)
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Josh
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« on: May 18, 2009, 11:22:48 PM »

There is a persistent idea that adventures should hold to a “realistic” or “balanced” framework.
Adventures ideally should give everyone in the group what they are looking for. 
Anything more is a waste of effort and anything less could be done better.


Thoughts?

Is balance needed?
Is realism desirable?
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AfterCrescent
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« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2009, 11:25:49 PM »

Is balance needed?
Is realism desirable?
Only if people in the group are looking for that. Some people want balance so they don't feel outshined in situations. Others want realistic games. If they play in your game, then yes.
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« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2009, 09:53:22 AM »

The AC is correct, and what he`s saying sort of makes your statement a bit unnecessary.

You've mentioned before on your show that people often don't really know what they want. People might frequently say "I don't care about balance" or "I don't care about realism"... but they actually do.

While I acknowledge that theoretically there could be a group of people in which none of them care about the inclusion of either of these concepts in their game, this would be rare enough to be surprising.

Balance and realism, in moderation, are not labor intensive to add to a game, and are preferred by such a huge percentage of gamers that not including them seems unnecessarily risky.

What do you lose by balancing your game?
What do you lose by logically applying the rules of your setting?
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« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2009, 09:57:42 AM »

Personally, I'd prefer balanced over realistic, as the core concepts of most roleplaying games tend to throw realism out the window as a matter of course.  I have a particular frustration with players who bitterly complain about how characters shouldn't be able to jump over X distance, while their character is gleefully blasting fire from his fingertips ...

That said, "balanced" is a really tricky concept -- from Josh's original post, I'm interpreting it as "every character gets to do what their character is built for, and every player gets a taste of the gameplay they enjoy (tactical combat, social interplay, problem-solving, etc.)"

Although it is great to have this happen, the problems I've seen with it are that it can feel like the GM is running down a checklist -- Rogue got to sneak around?  Check.  Wizard got to power-nuke a crowd of slavering monsters?  Check.  Bard got to hob-nob with nobility?  Aw damn ... now I have to get a noble to show up in the Caverns Of Exsanguination!  This can really do a lot of damage to the overall story and plot of the game, as it starts to feel like the PCs are just bouncing from instance to instance.

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« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2009, 10:08:23 AM »

i try to strike a balance as best i can. I tell my players there will be things that they can't handle but will come across, but i will never force them to have to deal with it.

The greatest example of this was when i ran an Oriental game and a player wanted an elf. So i let them bring in something from another world, but others came with it. So the party, at lvl 8 or 9, got to see the First Oni fight the Tarrasque. It was an event to show that that character isn't the only thing that could make it from the other world and the party 'could' have chosen to get involved but they wisely didn't.
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« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2009, 01:00:13 PM »

I'd much rather have balance. A thing I like about World of Darkness is that no matter what fighting style you have you can pretty much make it viable. You can shoot, stab, kung-fu, chuck explosives, brew potions, etc. The problems with the system are obvious and manyfold, namely in the form of characters capable of doing 38 dice of lethal damage per round or sniping people as a rote action and getting 9-agains and whatnot. But there are a lot more viable options than DnD where casting is required to compete.

I'd like a system where magic is more or less equal to melee, in terms of general utility, and as it stands, DnD 3.5 doesn't do that.

Now, in terms of having fun at the gaming table, balance is both required and unnecessary. If a given player is good at optimization, and the others aren't, that one player's optimized character will dictate the flow of the game. Either they destroy everything and nobody has fun, or they help everyone out and everyone has fun. A good group dynamic is truly wonderful and it can overcome almost any problem that will arise within a given system. Gentlemen's agreements are the best.

Now, as in the case of striking a balance between different playstyles, that's much more difficult. Tossing nobles into the middle of the tomb of horrors is not kosher, but a given session should try to accomodate the desires of the players. Obviously in the case of many versus one, the many should win, and the one should consider whether or not his gaming tastes coincide with those of his comrades', but in a group with a very diverse playstyle, with some being RPer grognards and others being worldslaying Min/Maxers, for instance, you'll need to accomodate both groups. If possible, try to convince the two to like each others' styles. Involve the grognards in combat and involve the Min/Maxers in the story.

It's a bit of a rant, but my basic suggestion is that you try to get everyone to contribute to the game at all times.
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« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2009, 03:26:14 PM »

There is a persistent idea that adventures should hold to a “realistic” or “balanced” framework.
Adventures ideally should give everyone in the group what they are looking for. 
Anything more is a waste of effort and anything less could be done better.


Thoughts?

Is balance needed?
Is realism desirable?

As far as the balance/realism question, I'd say AC hit it on the head first try.  Spot on.

I also agree with the idea that adventures should ideally give everyone the experience they are looking for.

The last statement is, I think, the tricky one.

I don't think anything more is wasted effort.  If I come into a game looking for great RPing and I get that, but I also get fun and lively combat, I wouldn't say the GM is wasting effort - he's providing everything I want and more, and that added level is one thing that makes a good GM into a great GM.  As long as the players at the table are receptive to the things they weren't necessarily looking for, the GM has done well and the adventure is better for it.

Same with the idea that anything less could be done better.  For one, you can always do better - more challenging but balanced combats, better and more flavorful (but not longer winded!) descriptions, scintillating in-character dialogue - I don't personally excel at all of those things, and I don't know anyone who does.  Maybe everyone else does, I don't know.   Big Grin  Regardless, I think you can always do better, and if you have a really disparate group of players with distinctly different creative agendas it can be incredibly tough to get everything they want in there and still have a coherent adventure.

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« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2009, 04:04:38 PM »

I think too that part of the responsibility for "balance" falls on the players.  As players, it's partially up to them to balance their personal expectations with an acceptance of what the other players and the GM find to be fun.  It's if a particular session doesn't include any of the cloak-and-dagger intrigue that one player enjoys, as long as he can trust that the other players won't stomp all over his fun when said intrigue finally raises its head two or three sessions down the road.

Also, as far as characters go, a degree of balance is created when the players ensure that they design characters that will function in the world set out by the GM, and that can equally share out time in the spotlight.  That's not to say that characters can't share the same specialty or "schtick", but they have to be responsible in how they play it out, so that one character isn't continually overshadowed by another.
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« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2009, 04:36:33 PM »

Balance-wise, I'm of the Mobile Spotlight Philosophy:  There are planned places for each person to shine.  There will be times when they do something unexpected but spectacular.  Each session is unlikely to shine the spotlight on each character or player, and even each mission isn't guaranteed to have something for everyone, but eventually if everyone cooperates, you'll get your turn.
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« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2009, 11:48:40 PM »

Define balance, and define realism.

One idea I've run into on the concept of balance in RPGs is that there isn't any one thing that can be called "balance".  Two things are commonly called "balance": concept balance (the idea that all character types are equally viable in a given game) and spotlight balance (the idea that all characters get equal screen time).  A question that ties into both is the question of the scope of the game and the degree of conceptual and spotlight overlap.

Then there's "realism" -- which, aside from being a loaded term, isn't always meant to mean what's realistic in the mapping-to-the-real-world sense anyway.  Does the speaker mean that, or a plausible world, or a merely coherent world, or adherence to tropes that ring true to them?

Then you have the unenviable task of having to mesh the ingredients above in the proportions desired and make it all taste good...  -- Pteryx
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« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2009, 12:15:33 AM »

Do you mean realism or verisimilitude?
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Josh
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« Reply #11 on: May 21, 2009, 03:26:31 AM »

Do you mean realism or verisimilitude?

I "mean" nothing. 

If one of the players says "that is not very realistic" do I a) make it realistic or explain how it is realistic or b) say "so what?"

Is realism a goal or a red herring?

Verisimilitude is essentially the same as realism where the lie is acknowledged.  Though many gamers (myself included) use it to mean adherence to the situational truth.

the other jargontastic term is plausibility. 

First introduced to me here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Plausible_Impossible

Yes a Disney cartoon. 
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« Reply #12 on: May 21, 2009, 03:56:47 PM »

False delimma. It can be both "realistic" and "balanced," or it could be neither. I think that situationally appropriate, which is what I meant by verisimilitude, is a good goal, even if it's not always acheivable.
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« Reply #13 on: May 21, 2009, 04:45:37 PM »

Where do you see someone positing a dilemma?
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« Reply #14 on: May 22, 2009, 12:38:00 PM »

Balance is, in my experience, more needed than realism. If people are shooting fireballs out of their hands, I find that realism has already been thrown out the window. I understand wanting realism in non magical physics and how people act is common and acceptable, but arguing about the realism of rules can lead too serious trouble, especially with a group of military history buffs. Liam, I will NEVER forgive you.
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« Reply #15 on: May 28, 2009, 12:06:25 AM »

Where do you see someone positing a dilemma?
In the thread title. I'm not sure I've actually heard anyone make that particular claim, either, that adventures should be either balanced or realistic. Or did you not mean to phrase it that way?
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« Reply #16 on: May 28, 2009, 01:25:35 AM »

Where do you see someone positing a dilemma?
In the thread title. I'm not sure I've actually heard anyone make that particular claim, either, that adventures should be either balanced or realistic. Or did you not mean to phrase it that way?

I hear people say it all the time.  Adventures should be balanced or that adventures should be realistic.  Both or either.
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« Reply #17 on: May 28, 2009, 08:26:40 AM »

Where do you see someone positing a dilemma?
In the thread title. I'm not sure I've actually heard anyone make that particular claim, either, that adventures should be either balanced or realistic. Or did you not mean to phrase it that way?
The programmer in me sees the problem with the english word "or": is it inclusive or exclusive?
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Josh
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« Reply #18 on: May 28, 2009, 10:08:49 AM »

Where do you see someone positing a dilemma?
In the thread title. I'm not sure I've actually heard anyone make that particular claim, either, that adventures should be either balanced or realistic. Or did you not mean to phrase it that way?
The programmer in me sees the problem with the english word "or": is it inclusive or exclusive?


a) look at it like this "adventures should be something, balanced or realistic."
b) It does not contribute to the actual discussion to harp on nitpicking.
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« Reply #19 on: May 28, 2009, 10:31:17 AM »

I was just commenting on the confusion between you and Shaun.  He was seeing a false dilemma in the title by reading "reaslistic or balanced" as exclusive (one or the other, not both), whereas you were reading it as inclusive (either or, or both).

It's not harping on nitpicking.  It's looking for clarification so as to have more meaningful discussion.
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My balancing 3.5 compendium
Elemental mage test game

Quotes
Quote from: Cafiend
It is a shame stupidity isn't painful.
Quote from: StormKnight
Totally true.  Historians believe that most past civilizations would have endured for centuries longer if they had successfully determined Batman's alignment.
Quote from: Grand Theft Otto
Why are so many posts on the board the equivalent of " Dear Dr. Crotch, I keep punching myself in the crotch, and my groin hurts... what should I do? How can I make my groin stop hurting?"
Quote from: CryoSilver
I suggest carving "Don't be a dick" into him with a knife.  A dull, rusty knife.  A dull, rusty, bent, flaming knife.
Quote from: Seerow
Fluffy: It's over Steve! I've got the high ground!
Steve: You underestimate my power!
Fluffy: Don't try it, Steve!
Steve: *charges*
Fluffy: *three critical strikes*
Steve: ****
Quote from: claypigeons
I don't even stat out commoners. Commoner = corpse that just isn't a zombie. Yet.
Quote from: CryoSilver
When I think "Old Testament Boots of Peace" I think of a paladin curb-stomping an orc and screaming "Your death brings peace to this land!"
Quote from: Orville_Oaksong
Buy a small country. Or Pelor. Both are good investments.
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