Saturday, August 31, 2013

The cloak of balance

Rule induced balance in a game is a cloak that hides entire sets of options and possibilities from players. This is a lesson learned from this month's playtest sessions. It is possible to survive a highly lethal game without the need for "balance rules" that make for a fair game.
Granting every player an opportunity to participate in the game is important. Balancing stage time is important so no one get bored. Enforcing such a thing through a set of rules mean to balance character strength and even pamper the character from the perils of the adventure is a very risky thing.
I find it risky because it creates playing habits that block out entire options from gameplay. Certain actions, strategies and activities are simply not done because the rules for balance don't promote them or worse yet, hinder them.
Such has been my experience with things like fixed attacks per round, deciding to move or attack, initiative rolls and hit points. I've granted many attacks per round to characters even as they run around, made round duration a rather variable value, done away with initiative and fixed hit points at a very low level. Yet characters are not dropping dead like flies and no player is left out of the action.
On the contrary, a lot of new dynamics have emerged. Players have done things that were not common in my games before because I was playing bound by a set of "balance rules" that were "cloaking" all these options from the players. Now characters may die at any moment, but they're more alive than they've ever been.
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