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Title: Help with a heartbreaker...
Post by: Warrior Monk on October 14, 2009, 03:18:33 PM
I need help to balance professions on a heartbreaker I've been messing with. It's roughly based on Anima Beyond Dreams, if anybody ever heard of it. It's an incredibly broken and unbalanced game with way too much fluff and an Anime feeling to it. It makes the setting and game interesting but way too complex for a smooth narration.

Anyway, professions I would like to keep are just 4: fighter, tao, summoner and wizard. Multiclassing provides the rest of the options.

Basically wizard uses free-form magic by combining "runes" -actually just words from a list- which make for most effects of any magic. You advance as a wizard by learning new runes and gaining level. Each level gives you and additional d6 to roll, which you add to determine range/area of effect and power of the magic.

Summoner concentrates on natural weapons, parts or some abilities of animals and plants to either change a part of his body for one combat turn or summon a whole creature to help him. It works as the wizard list, you advance by learning more about the creatures you summon and by gaining levels (more d6)

Which leaves us with the fighter and the tao, and the questions I wanted to ask here:

So far, fighter can handle as many different weapons and targets as d6 she has. Or can add some or all to make more powerful attacks. BUT further than that it doesn't have more options, which I find not enough fun to play as a character, unless you multiclass. First question: Is actually fun enough just with this? Since combat moves are for free and anybody can try anything (and I don't wanna bother making a complex table of bonus for each combat move like grappling, disarm, attack of opportunity etc etc) what else could make fighters different and interesting to play?

Tao is similar, except than unarmed and gets to use ki to perform complex and powerful techniques. Mainly he gets to add ki to all physical rolls as long as he keeps his concentration. In addition to that I can make a list of "moves" that can become a part of a technique, so players would be able to design their own techniques. Yet, is this enough? what would you expect from any "martial artist" profession?


Title: Re: Help with a heartbreaker...
Post by: Warrior Monk on October 15, 2009, 01:06:23 PM
Too bad I can't edit my post, now that I read what I wrote in a hurry yesterday, I realize there are a lot of things that might get misunderstood. So more briefly:

-I'm making a fantasy heartbreaker.

-I believe fighter class in my game is broken, compared to all the rest. I'm not so sure. Perhaps it needs more fluff, though nothing has come to my mind yet.

-The resolution mechanics are simple: you roll as many d6 as levels you have, either in a single class or all classes you have. You add the results or designate separate results for different effects, depending on the class.

Example: Raiden is a level 6 fighter, he can roll 6 dice to either attack 6 enemies or add them to attack one with full power. He can also attack up to six times the same enemy in one turn. He can keep apart 3 dices for defense instead of rolling them all on his turn. Even the distance of his ranged attacks (in meters) is indicated by this roll

So please, if you have any suggestions of what would make interesting to play a fighter class compared to magic or summoning, please let me know. Thanks for your time!


Title: Re: Help with a heartbreaker...
Post by: Warrior Monk on October 16, 2009, 08:25:55 AM
I've been discussing this with a couple of friends outside the forum and it seems there can't be a way to balance class damage in a heartbreaker. Fighter wants to do the most damage and it seems fair, but then again wizard has a poit that magig shoud do massive damage or it wouldn't be fun... so whole core system looks broken inregard to classes.

The idea we come up with yesterday was that simply everybody starts as a fighter, with one dice on another class. From there everybody levels as he manages to, either just as a fighter or as a summoner, tao or wizard if he learns enough about it.

Still if anybody has any suggestions about this that doesn't complicate the game system, I'd love to hear your ideas. Many thanks!


Title: Re: Help with a heartbreaker...
Post by: Mike Sugarbaker on October 16, 2009, 01:26:14 PM
Balance is an emotional problem more than a statistical one. Balance is about letting the players feel that they have a shot. That can be done in all sorts of ways.

..but yeah, in systems like these, just getting the base-level mechanics to pass the laugh test when it comes to that emotion can be a huge, huge task. There's a reason why most popular systems of this sort come from teams of people who work on them full-time... hence the heartbreak.


Title: Re: Help with a heartbreaker...
Post by: otspiii on October 17, 2009, 12:02:46 AM
What are you trying to balance?  Do you want all classes to be equally effective in combat, or equally effective at having moments during the game where they can contribute?  Will wizards have challenges they can solve that fighters won't be as effective at?

If there's a primary type of challenge that the vast majority of gameplay will focus on it makes sense for every class to be equally effective at it, but another method of balance is just to make sure that everyone has an area that they shine at.  The danger is that if resolution takes a long time and the other characters are rendered trivial during the challenge your character shines at it can lead to a painful group dynamic.

A secondary danger is that if everyone is equally good at combat but the wizard's non-combat spells are way more useful that the fighter's non-combat abilities it can trivialize the fighter.


Title: Re: Help with a heartbreaker...
Post by: Catelf on October 17, 2009, 02:08:58 AM
In most published Games i've seen, Magic usually requires some kind of "Magical Energy" to spend, and/or takes time and/or advanced concentration to do the truly damage-making Spells.
In Shadowrun and Witchcraft(if i don't remember wrong) the mage may even get hurt by the magical energies, After the spell is done!
It do seem like you have a broken system, but since you're making your own version of it, i suggest you first give the Wizard one or some of the above limitations.
Then, that the Fighter can do similar damage closeup, but for"free", should make it more interesting.
Or has i misunderstood the situation?
              Catelf.


Title: Re: Help with a heartbreaker...
Post by: JoyWriter on October 17, 2009, 09:09:55 AM
There are a lot of other ways to do magic, one fun way is to use magic in a conflict focused game is as a way to shift conflicts in your favour, rather than being about pure damage. For example the summoners creatures could each have less dice than he does, but be able to combine their actions in interesting ways, rather than just thumping stuff. There's no innate reason for wizards to be nukes!

At the moment this game is feeling a bit empty, as if your not sure who you are building for (Or maybe it's just me that's not sure!). What kind of thing do you envision people doing with this game? What's the kind of situation that these characters face? Have you considered hacking the game you were inspired by to remove the bits that spin you out? That way you could hopefully keep as much of your original inspiration intact as possible, assuming they do it some justice of course.

At the end of the day, if being a fighter means something cool in the setting some players will play it even if mechanically it's just "other classes minus their cool stuff" but it should always be a meaningful choice, or you might as well ditch it, which you can easily do.


Title: Re: Help with a heartbreaker...
Post by: Maugh on October 18, 2009, 10:42:58 AM
I wish I knew more about the anima system, because not only would it help me give you a better response, but the art is just plain gorgeous in their books.  I own one of their card games, and it is quite fun to play.  I'm much more familiar with the very similar issue in dnd games, so forgive me if I couch my terms in their language.  I think it's the same issue.

But on topic.  The issue you're talking about, in our group we call this the 'fighters are boring" issue.  Fighters tend to be stacks of HP that deal damage to other stacks of HP.  First stack to run down loses.   Mages tend to be more interesting because they get a wide variety of tactical options and ways of changing up the combat field through pet spells, (summoners/undead,) buffs/nerfs, ranged effects, and spells that change the way the characters act, like haste, etc.  On top of that, mages tend to get some of the best damaging effects through 'nuke,' magics.  Really, the world of a mage is the place to be.  Most games do apply limiters, but usually these limiters are designed to facilitate magic as much as they are to limit it.  Without these limiters, mages would be UNHOLY powerful, rather than just overbalanced/powerful.

Most games will attempt to balance this by relatively increasing the damage a fighter can take through HP or armor, or even how much they can dish out.  (Which is then conveniently balanced out by spells that give them more HP or better defense,) but I think this is the wrong approach.

I think that the answer, rather than making fighters stronger than mages offensively and defensively, is to instead give them more options, more ways to change up combat.  A tactically diverse fighter becomes more interesting.  As many spells and tricks that a caster should have, a fighter should have.  The caster can fireball, the fighter can cleave.  The caster can stone skin, the fighter can fight defensively.  Really, the thing that makes casters tactically interesting is choosing what spell to cast when, and balancing the risk/benefit of the effect with their own limitations.

Fighters should get the same thing.  If the fighter doesn't have enough options to wonder what technique or tactic they should use now, weighing the risk/benefit of one maneuver over another, then they are not living up to the potential of the mages. 

A character should choose the class and character they want based on the style and image of the character and based on the flair of that character's tactical options.  When both options are tactically interesting, relatively balanced in terms of capabilities and effectiveness, and fun to play in different ways and with different image, that's when everybody wins, the players and the game designer.

So, to make a short story long, you should be giving your fighters better tactical options.


Title: Re: Help with a heartbreaker...
Post by: Catelf on October 19, 2009, 08:36:55 AM
What i'm about to write, is at least partially, what Maugh just noted, with some example suggestions.
Really, his suggestions made me think of another thread i've read somewhere:
It was about "Characterization" of Weapons!
Like this(for instance):
Swords CUT Through things, even some Armor.
Clubs causes mainly bruises, but is possibly easier to hit with.
Hammers causes Massive Bruises, but may be hard to hit with.
and so on.
.......
Then, there is also the option of introducing weapons of Renown, that may have added abilities......


Title: Re: Help with a heartbreaker...
Post by: Warrior Monk on October 19, 2009, 12:53:54 PM
Balance is an emotional problem more than a statistical one. Balance is about letting the players feel that they have a shot. That can be done in all sorts of ways.

..but yeah, in systems like these, just getting the base-level mechanics to pass the laugh test when it comes to that emotion can be a huge, huge task. There's a reason why most popular systems of this sort come from teams of people who work on them full-time... hence the heartbreak.

Yeah, your comment and a talk with my group of players just helped me realize that about fantasy heartbreakers and almost made me give up on trying on this and thinking that probably I shoud focus on one class and make the game around it... It's because the original idea I had for the game was that every class could do different things in different ways but in the end of things, everybody would roll the same number of dice when doing their max damage/power, and even risking something when doing so. I came up with this as a way to avoid the situations otspii mentions:
What are you trying to balance?  Do you want all classes to be equally effective in combat, or equally effective at having moments during the game where they can contribute?  Will wizards have challenges they can solve that fighters won't be as effective at?

If there's a primary type of challenge that the vast majority of gameplay will focus on it makes sense for every class to be equally effective at it, but another method of balance is just to make sure that everyone has an area that they shine at.  The danger is that if resolution takes a long time and the other characters are rendered trivial during the challenge your character shines at it can lead to a painful group dynamic.

A secondary danger is that if everyone is equally good at combat but the wizard's non-combat spells are way more useful that the fighter's non-combat abilities it can trivialize the fighter.

Now, I've been working to balance the fighter and make it useful. So far batte is interesting just because of the way the fighter gets to ho his attacks: he can split his dice pool to make different attacks of different power to different targets using as many weapons as levels he's got. And he can do all that in a single turn. But, as every character in the game, whenever he uses all his available dice he's risking to strain his character. If he rolls 6 with more than half of his dice pool, he does full damage but he's got to roll on a table for strain: he damages his body in the effort, drops a weapon in the clash, etc. It's the same risk (actually a bit worse) for the magician, summoner and martial artist.

The last thing to balance the fight was to make the magician still able to make area damage but splitting the damage among the targets instead of doing full damage to each of them. Now, that still leaves the magician, summoner and martial artist's off-battle abilities more useful than the fighter's, so that seems to be my main problem now.

I wish I knew more about the anima system, because not only would it help me give you a better response, but the art is just plain gorgeous in their books.  I own one of their card games, and it is quite fun to play.  I'm much more familiar with the very similar issue in dnd games, so forgive me if I couch my terms in their language.  I think it's the same issue.

But on topic.  The issue you're talking about, in our group we call this the 'fighters are boring" issue.  Fighters tend to be stacks of HP that deal damage to other stacks of HP.  First stack to run down loses.   Mages tend to be more interesting because they get a wide variety of tactical options and ways of changing up the combat field through pet spells, (summoners/undead,) buffs/nerfs, ranged effects, and spells that change the way the characters act, like haste, etc.  On top of that, mages tend to get some of the best damaging effects through 'nuke,' magics.  Really, the world of a mage is the place to be.  Most games do apply limiters, but usually these limiters are designed to facilitate magic as much as they are to limit it.  Without these limiters, mages would be UNHOLY powerful, rather than just overbalanced/powerful.

Most games will attempt to balance this by relatively increasing the damage a fighter can take through HP or armor, or even how much they can dish out.  (Which is then conveniently balanced out by spells that give them more HP or better defense,) but I think this is the wrong approach.

I think that the answer, rather than making fighters stronger than mages offensively and defensively, is to instead give them more options, more ways to change up combat.  A tactically diverse fighter becomes more interesting.  As many spells and tricks that a caster should have, a fighter should have.  The caster can fireball, the fighter can cleave.  The caster can stone skin, the fighter can fight defensively.  Really, the thing that makes casters tactically interesting is choosing what spell to cast when, and balancing the risk/benefit of the effect with their own limitations.

Fighters should get the same thing.  If the fighter doesn't have enough options to wonder what technique or tactic they should use now, weighing the risk/benefit of one maneuver over another, then they are not living up to the potential of the mages. 

A character should choose the class and character they want based on the style and image of the character and based on the flair of that character's tactical options.  When both options are tactically interesting, relatively balanced in terms of capabilities and effectiveness, and fun to play in different ways and with different image, that's when everybody wins, the players and the game designer.

So, to make a short story long, you should be giving your fighters better tactical options.

You are right! pure Fighters are also boring in Anima, despite the combat system in the game gives much more freedom of movements and tactics to the players. Since there are so many classes including different combinations of fighters with some extra fluff, it's definitly not a game fun to play as a pure fighter. Yet again, some of my players chose to play as pure fighters and it became a bit difficult to make the game interesting for them sometimes.

I started to play Anima and dropped D&D mainly because our GM started to go maniac on the rules and the game stopped being a fun narration and became an argument about rules. On top of that the fighter -despite his narrow array of tactical choices- had the most fun just because the rules gave him the numbers to hit and kill everything the GM thrown at us. I know it's not a problem with the rules, just a problem with the way I like to play and the people I play RPGs with. That's why I went into the trouble of hacking a game with too much fluff like Anima and later designing a rules-lite version.

Some players are comfortable playing a fighter with not many options and a just a higher stack of hp than the rest of players. Perhaps it's just a matter of rewarding and encouraging my players for teamwork, like in "the mage can use all his dice and freeform magic to buff a fighter, so both add their full dice pool to beat the crap out of everything" -of course, both could suffer the strain effect in case the mage rolls way too many 6's. Or not; I'm not sure yet.

Another way to make fighters useful I'm thinking of is implementing this mechanic: on a good intelligence/perception roll, the fighter can "found" a terrain or a clue about it that gives the team a better tactical advantage and it's up to the team to lure the enemy into place. This can be interpretated as either a bonus to every player using the trick the fighter found or a penalty to every enemy that falls into their trap. Would this be enough? Any other suggestions for tactical fluff for the fighter? Many thanks for your comments, everybody!


Title: Re: Help with a heartbreaker...
Post by: JoyWriter on October 19, 2009, 05:31:24 PM
Now, that still leaves the magician, summoner and martial artist's off-battle abilities more useful than the fighter's, so that seems to be my main problem now.

The clue is in the name! If all a fighter does is fight, well he won't be much good in diplomacy! To resolve this you can make them more the "leader of men" type, with chances to influence crowds etc. It's just a question of considering how they might exist in a setting and what influence or skill they might have when not sticking swords in things; are they more like samurai or pirates? Guards or assassins? Rangers or gladiators? etc


Title: Re: Help with a heartbreaker...
Post by: Andre Canivet on October 20, 2009, 08:40:29 PM
Yes--you could give fighters a list of practical skills (wilderness survival, blacksmithing, diplomacy, etc.) they can choose from; the same way wizards have a list of runes they know. 


Title: Re: Help with a heartbreaker...
Post by: Warrior Monk on October 21, 2009, 10:58:14 AM
Yes--you could give fighters a list of practical skills (wilderness survival, blacksmithing, diplomacy, etc.) they can choose from; the same way wizards have a list of runes they know. 

That one brings another issue I'm having with the game, the skills. To keep the game simple I wanted to implement the same mechanic used on dogs in the vineyard and rissus: each player comes up with 3 skills of choice and get 1d6 on each of them. One of the skills must be physical, one must be a social skill and the last one must be a knowledgement related one. Players kinda like it but since they are still used to long D&D-like skill lists, they want a list to choose from, in case they can't come up with anything.

Question is this: Anybody who played the games listed before or any other with a similar mechanic- did you find anything un-balancing on that mechanic? was it too hard to come up with anything useful?


Title: Re: Help with a heartbreaker...
Post by: Andre Canivet on October 21, 2009, 09:15:41 PM
Question is this: Anybody who played the games listed before or any other with a similar mechanic- did you find anything un-balancing on that mechanic? was it too hard to come up with anything useful?

I've read those games but haven't played them...  but it seems like the "breadth" or generality of a skill can be a balance issue.  For example, one character might write "play guitar" and only use it to play guitars.  Another might write "music" and assume it covers singing, composing, and playing all sorts of musical instruments.  I'm fairly sure Dogs says not to worry about this sort of thing, but if balance is a big concern, you may want to include some guidelines or advice for how general skills can be, or for resolving disputes over skills.



Title: Re: Help with a heartbreaker...
Post by: Warrior Monk on October 22, 2009, 07:22:14 AM
Right! -How about this for skill guidelines?

-The more broad the skill, the higher the difficulty of the roll, representing a lower knowledgement and less practice of specific areas in that skill. The more specific, the difficculty lowers.


Title: Re: Help with a heartbreaker...
Post by: Andre Canivet on October 22, 2009, 10:56:39 AM
That seems like it would work pretty well for balance.  The only tough part is helping the players & GM decide what constitutes a broad skill, and what's a specific skill.  Sometimes it can be hard to tell; but I think as long as your players discuss it at character creation, they should be able to avoid disputes later on.  Spirit of the Century does something like that: there's a stage as you're choosing your aspects (traits which can be positive or negative), where the player and the GM talk about the player's choices and iron out their expectations beforehand.


Title: Re: Help with a heartbreaker...
Post by: charles ferguson on October 27, 2009, 04:17:50 PM
Hey Warrior Monk,

I love your fighter. Please don't get rid of him!

I also love your whole game concept.

I am having touble seeing too much conceptual difference between the tao & the fighter. I mean, I know technically (one has weapons, one doesn't) but in terms of their roles in the game (kicking ass in combat) they seem pretty to fill pretty much the same role.

Just a thought: how about ditching the tao as a seperate class, & instead give the fighter access to unarmed as well as armed attacks? I'm thinking wushu, like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon etc, where the mystical fighters all use ki to give themselves supernatural weapon feats as well as unarmed stuff (plus flying, running up walls, running on water etc).

This would give you 3 classes: Wizard, Summoner, & Fighter (you can call them something else if you want to make them sound more special).

I'm not sure what your magic for the other two clases uses, but maybe you could expand ki to power all supernatural feats & abilities, including runes & summoning?

So then the fighter is just someone who uses his/her ki for physical attacks rather than for runes / summoning.

Awesome sounding game!

Charles


Title: Re: Help with a heartbreaker...
Post by: Warrior Monk on October 30, 2009, 02:25:47 PM
Many thanks! you're right, the fighter already seems balanced so now I've gotta work on the tao. Since the first time I played a D&D monk I couldn't help but find that the character was just like an unarmed fighter with artificial oriental flavor. Now that I've been reading the Mayhem RPG I agree that the tao must have something more interesting. In Anima, instead of the stands mechanic Mayhem uses to solve the issue, options revolved around a brief tree of martial arts. The only cool thing about that was that you could mix bonuses from different martial arts and keep the best bonus each of them gave to the character.

Basically the idea I had for the tao was that he could empower any physical ability with ki. Thus this would be the only character in the party able to do superhuman level movements. Need somebody to jump a river with a rope on his shoulder to make a bridge? let the tao do it. Need somebody to sneak into the enemy camp in plain daylight? the tao is your guy. Mechanics would be simple as always: roll as many dice as tao levels you have for any physical ability, including of course, combat. Drawbacks list so far? Roll more than half your dice pool of 6 and you lose concentration becoming again a simple human right in the middle of superhuman level action... yeah, it sucks big time but if GM allows you might get a chance to regain your concentration in time to absorb damage... or not. :D

I still don't intend ki abilities to overlap magic abilities or the other way so enhance magics are off the question. Might this mean that the Tao would be able to enhance other members of the party? It doesn't feek ok somehow...