Monday, June 22, 2009

Curse you, "balance"!

The nebulous concept of "game balance" sometimes hamstrings me when I'm trying to run more player-empowered games. The bit about "you don't want to give out bonuses too freely..." is the cornerstone of this mindset, and makes me, and many other GMs, leery of making things "too easy", even when they aren't, and even when the point of things isn't the difficulty.


  1. I don't see how giving out too many bonuses is ever a problem...think of it this way. When a solo is played at a concert, the rest of the band ramps up their volume afterward to equal it out. Whenever you see things are unbalanced, ask yourself this question:

    1) Is it affecting the way we WANT to play the game? Frankly, if everyone is having fun, and seem to be alright with the imbalance, let it ride out a bit, you can always reign it in later should it become an issue.

  2. I think it's important to determine why it feels imbalanced - if it's simply because I gave you a lot of dice, then that's meaningless. If I'm giving everybody different amounts, then we can compare notes on why that is.
    To me, "real" balance-setting derives from making a series of options roughly equal in value in some manner or another. It's not about making them the same, or equivalent, or anything; it's about making them equally interesting and empowering, in whatever criteria we arrive at.
    If, for instance, a player hardly gets any bonus dice because bonus dice come from being creative, descriptive, outlandish, etc., then maybe it's possible to remind that player that it's okay to step up and get a little bit more into things, especially if they're about to lose on a roll because they didn't get into it at all.

  3. Another thought: Apocalypse World handles problems like these by insisting that the MC "do what the fiction demands". By making it just a tad more explicit like that, you clear up the problem of deciding what's fair and just go with what makes sense, based on causality and such.