***warning/disclaimer***: this is a rant. It is steeped in hyperbole, and is irrespective to what may or may not be considered socially acceptable; and is presented in free-form (read: A.D.D.) stream-of-consciousness. As such, anything in this thread that resembles either tact or coherency is strictly coincidental. Continue at your own risk.
Seriously, am I the only one that has noticed this trend? It used to be that the idea of "game balance" was simply some abstract concept that simply referred to making sure things didn't fall apart due to insane inequities. But, apparently, things have been shifting to mean something more -- much more. I just read a post/thread that was talking about that you should never penalize a character for any choice that they make, unless you make up for it somewhere else -- all in the name of "game balance". ARE YOU FRIGGIN' KIDDING ME?! Am I actually supposed to buy this idea that any and all choices that a player/character makes should be equally viable to all others? One guy was even saying that a character shouldn't experience so much as a "-1" to anything unless he in turn gets a "+1" to something else -- and claimed that game balance was the reasoning. There was another thread that was talking about the intimidate skill; the OP of that thread was looking to bring a little verisimilitude to the concept of a halfling trying to intimidate an orc. I suggested a size modifier (it was a 4e discussion, apparently), and was descended upon with a shit-storm, the likes of which I've never before encountered. All I could say is "WTF?!".
Speaking of 4e, I've got a bit of a theory (and no, I'm NOT trying to continue the edition war). I've noticed something as it pertains to the philosophical approaches of the various editions, and the players that play them (this is, of course, a generalization -- I realize that there are exceptions). It seems that with each successive edition, more discretion is taken away from the DM (and yes, I understand the intent of "consistency"), and you have the emergence of players that have an over-developed sense of entitlement. This crescendo really started to show with 3rd, and has reached it's climax with 4e. In 2nd, the DMG stated flat-out that you should feel free to change things as you see fit; and the PHB made sure to emphasize the importance of DM's prerogative. However, in 3rd, you start seeing rhetoric to the effect that players run the game (I'm not trying to take anything away from the players' role here); and that, while the DM still has some discretion, you should be wary of house-ruling stuff, else you chance completely killing "game balance". Now, with 4e -- my monopoly
games have more variance than what some of these 4e players will allow for. Not only does the verbiage encourage rules-lawyering (much as in 3rd); but it goes even further by basically saying that things MUST be done a certain way, else the entire space-time continuum collapse. Furthermore, it even goes on to describe how everything must have perfect
parity -- everything. Even the races feel like the designers used the "everybody gets a trophy" mentality. You want your halfling to be just as much as a powerhouse as the half-orc? Sure, why not. You want your tiefling to be just as socially acceptable as the elf? Go for it. Everybody has equal potential for everything as everybody else -- it's the only way that things can be "balanced" -- right?
It seems like the designers have actively gone out of their way to shrink the size of their collective "box", and do everything humanly possible to keep people (i.e., the players and DMs) from wanting to think outside of that box. As ridiculous a the 3.5 CO boards can get from time to time (oh, who am I kidding? -- most of the time), I thank the heavens for their existence -- if for no other reason that they have demonstrated the majestic splendor of outside-the-box thinking.
Of course, some of the mentality that comes from the CO boards does anger me quite a bit. The whole "just play a wizard/cleric/druid -- it 'wins' the game" bothers me immensely. That kind of mentality, I think, misses the whole point of a RPG. The point, I believe, is to develop a particular concept, and have fun trying to do a specific thing -- to play a role, so to speak (oh, wow, look at that -- a "role"). Here's the problem -- the term "role" has seemingly come to only mean "function"; as opposed to "character performance" (which I believe was the original intent).
Speaking of "role", this brings me back to my original point. Not all concepts (or "roles") are equally viable in all situations. While I'm sure that this may seem obvious to most, it is a concept that is lost to an ever-increasing demographic. If I choose
to be 3', 35lbs, then I should be prepared to not be very effective as a powerhouse (at least, not when compared to someone who has chosen
to be 7', 300lbs). If I choose
to be some demon-spawn abomination, then I should expect to be socially persecuted. If I choose
to dedicate my talents to the intellectual pursuits of arcane spellcasting, then I should expect that I'm gonna have to forgo being able to crush the life out of things with brute strength (and vice-versa). If I choose
to shoot my bow across a distance that has 5 of the squares occupied by people -- even if they are allies -- then I should expect to have my accuracy decreased; not only decreasing the chance to hit my intended target, but increasing my chances of hitting an unintended target (possibly even an ally) -- I should expect to have to take special training to help
avoid such follies. Basically, it seems as if the whole concept of opportunity costs
is completely lost on some people; and the # of people who ignore this concept seems to be rising at an alarming rate. This whole idea of only having positive reinforcement is what leads to the horrifying concept of the "tyranny of fun".
I'm sure that this is simply a reflection of society. We've become a culture that demands that our free lunch be accompanied by instant gratification -- otherwise, live just wouldn't be "fair". Fair? Fair? Let me say something about "fair". Is it "fair" for someone to work their ass off, sacrificing the pleasures and luxuries that life has to offer, only to have the fruits of his labor be taken from them to pay for someone else to sit on their ass and keep popping-out kids that they can't afford while watching their big-screen cable TV? I can say a thing or two about fair. You, as a player, have choices to make (whether in
of character); and not all choices are created equal. All choices involve decisions; and those decisions have consequences. Ever hear of the law of unintended consequences
? Look in to it. And to say that living with the consequences of those decisions is not "fair" is complete b.s. And, no, I'm talking about the hypothetical "false" choices. OTOH, if you, as a player/character, choose to limit your choices, then a subsequent "false" choice may very well result -- but you'd have no one to blame but yourself. If there are vast differences between the power levels of the different PCs -- to the extent that one or more of the player just can't have any fun -- then there are probably a couple of different things going on; either:
1) the DM isn't doing his job; -and/or-
2) one or more of the players is inappropriately (often maliciously) exploiting the game-table dynamics (in which case, refer to #1).
And what's up with this whole idea of using 10 different PrCs within a single 20-level "build". As I see it, a PrC represents a special kind of dedication -- to the exclusion to all else. Sure, once you "complete" a PrC, go ahead and take on another one. But, since most PrCs are so front-loaded (and the abilities being scalable even without further advancement in the class), it just seems rather inappropriate to bounce around from PrC to PrC. I fully believe that this
should be required reading for all RPG gamers. Speaking of "the build" -- are we "playing" the "build" in an effort to game the system; or are we playing a character concept (a performance "role", if you will) and using the "build" to quantify what that character's skill-set would be? Sadly, I find, more and more, that we are trending towards the former. Nice going -- anything else you want to do to destroy the spirit of the game?
I understand that this is a game; and as such, the goal is to have fun. However, if feeling the consequences of choices is more than you can handle, then perhaps you should find a game where the gravity of your choices is felt a little less. Likewise, if you don't care for any verisimilitude within the established "accepted reality", then I'd say that this is also not the game for you. There has been WAY too much effort to bring some sort of realism to such abstract mechanics for someone to honestly say "don't try to bring realism in to it". Really? Then why is there so much correlation (with varying levels of "goodness of fit
", of course) between reality and the way that certain rules work? Coincidence -- I think not. If you doubt me, then you should probably read this
first. Besides, the whole "magic isn't real, so don't bother with reality in D&D" thing is a false argument -- the "realism" is a reference to verisimilitude within the parameters of the game.
It's the whole "when in Rome" concept -- if you choose to enter and engage an environment, then, by making this choice, you have taken on the responsibility of operating by the rules/standards/norms of that environment -- you DON'T force the environment to conform to your whims. But, no, they couldn't leave table-top RPGs alone, could they? No, they had to make it conform to the whims of cry-baby video-gamers (and no, I'm not saying that all video-gamers are cry-babies -- I'm saying that there are certain elements of video-game design that have the potential to lend to advancing an already-existing cry-baby mentality). In an effort to "broaden the market", Hasbro, through WotC, has, IMO, whored-out a product that was best fit for a niche market. In order to expand to a more "mainstream" market, they decided to cater to the worse elements of that market. So now, not only is the game that I have grown to love over the last 20 years being flooded by a bunch of jackholes; it also caters to those jackholes in such a way as to actually breed and nurture that jag-off mentality -- and even to the extent of transforming many a previously-discerning player in to even more jackholes. See what happens when you have a society that encourages libertinism and licentiousness? Damn it people -- get it together!
And all this just to advance some sick, perverted concept of supposed "game balance".
*sigh* Now that I've got that off my chest -- where am I wrong?