Complexity in classes and balance in game

profile[1]By Paco Garcia Jaen

Recently, Bruce Cordell asked about this subject in the Wizards of the Coast website.

The question is a legitimate one. The different versions of Dungeons & Dragons have all dealt differently with the way classes are equipped for the roles they are meant to play in the game. 4th Edition offers a series of abilities and resources that you can use as designed (at will, per encounter and daily). 3rd Edition provided with a much crunchier method of applying options with skills that are tailored to each class. Thus a wizard would be more likely to write and read than a warrior and a warrior would be more likely to be dungeon savvy than a wizard, etc.

The good thing about the 4th Edition way of doing things, is that every class has been very well balanced, so every player has a similar number of options, making all characters very similar in complexity, whether you are a warrior tank, a paladin, a wizard or anything else. In 3rd Edition or 3.5, you could just add a few abilities to your warrior and you had a simple character that was easy to run and with plenty of opportunities for role playing. Or at least that’s the theory.

There are things I like about both systems. I like the balance of 4th Edition, and I like the flexibility of 3rd Edition. Unfortunately, both are not compatible at the moment.

What I would like to have is a system in which I can create a simple character in whatever class I choose, without loosing balance if other members of the party are playing complex characters. If I have a novice player arriving at my party and that player is interested in playing a wizard, I would like to be able to provide a simple character that then she’ll be able to develop and increase its complexity.

And this is where it could be problematic. The advancement.

Regardless of what edition of D&D you’ve ever played, one thing is clear, higher levels threaten balance and make characters more difficult to play and control. Encounters are more difficult to plan and balance to keep fun and interesting without derailing the whole adventure.

So, from my point of view, the situation has two main aspects that need to be addressed:

  1. We need a skills system that will allow for the creation of both simple and complex characters in whatever class that will remain balanced with the rest of the classes.
  2. A character advancement system that will cater for changes in skill-load and help keep all characters balanced at any level.

This would allow for a party in which two wizards could have different levels of complexity, but have similar level of power, and thus opportunities to impact the adventure. Of course the same should be true for different classes. I would like my complex fighter to be as balanced as my simple wizard at the same level.

No doubt this is a great deal easier said tan done, but it would ensure an equal level of interaction, and thus of usefulness, from all players and enable anyone to feel they are having as good a time and as important a role as any other class.

How to do that? Over to you!

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