Thursday, 20 November 2014

Balance: The Final Blow!

Balancing a game! ... What an issue this can be! After all, one persons tactics may make a game easier to play than somebody else's. Different classes have pros and cons that could affect the game from the very start. Then there is simple chance of course ... one battle may go badly simply because of a run of poor dice rolls ... or be a cakewalk with an opposite run of the dice. The big question is, just how much should we consider scripting a game (for difficulty) where a player is relatively free to move their party wherever they like?

While it is true that in a DM controlled environment ensuring balance is easier to maintain than relying on scripts to control the difficulty levels for PCs, the big question remains just how much tweaking should ever be applied? I guess there are two schools of thought:-

1) FIXED: Do not alter difficulties at all and allow the PCs to get what's coming to them, or ...
2) SCALED: Alter the difficulty to allow for character levels and abilities.

Of course, every builder knows that a good combination of "fixed" versus "scaled" difficulties is the best solution to the problem, but, where do we (or should we) draw the line?

So, guess what I've been up to over the last couple of weeks? Basically, looking at difficulty levels for the PCs according to the different ways they could explore the module. I, of course, know the best path to take that will keep the difficulty levels about right, but I am also acutely aware that there are one or two steps they could make that would place them in a very difficult predicament. My current concern is, I am not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing? After all, while I am all for a "challenge", I am also aware that being "stuck" can be a quick way to frustrate a player (from personal experience).

So, my questions today, to keep in line with my current module updates is, what do you think?

1) Have you experienced a game (or module) that was simply too hard? (Example?)
2) Should a builder always (or never) scale difficulties?
3) What is your preferred style of play? (Relatively linear/guided path or completely open?)

From my own observations, a game that is more linear tends not to encounter these balancing issues, as the player should (in theory) be developing their character at the same rate as the difficulties increase. The "problem" only really comes to light when designing a more open world when the player ventures into a more dangerous region than another. However, what now takes precedence?

4) Should the game adjust to fit the player or should the player get the hint and back off?
5) However, what happens if the player cannot back off for whatever reason? Is the "game reload" an acceptable solution, or should the builder have considered another option for the player?

Too late to turn back ....

I think I took a wrong turning!


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