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'Balancing' Races?


Tywyll

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I know that BRP has never been particularly 'balanced' when it comes to races that aren't human. I think that, as a primarily simulationist system, this is generally fine. However, there is a small part of me that worries about player's feeling disadvantaged or what not for playing humans.

Has anyone ever tried to do anything to balance the races a bit? I'm mainly looking at fantasy style games, and I'm not talking about races like trolls, but more like elves, dwarves, Melniboneans, etc vs humans.

I've been toying with a few ideas to make humans more interesting:

1) If I use Hero Points from MRQ allow Human PCs an extra HP each game to represent their drive.

2) Pick a few skills for which they get a +X (10?) to all experience rolls to represents human haste and focus.

3) Possibly more skill points at start (though I don't really like this option).

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I have no problem with "unbalanced" races, provided the differences are a

plausible part of the setting.

If I wanted to "balance" races, I would most probably not try to do it with

the rules system. I would look for balancing factors within the setting, for

example "Elves are disliked by Humans, and are treated accordingly", and

would introduce that kind of "balancing" into the way I portray the setting.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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I have no problem with "unbalanced" races, provided the differences are a

plausible part of the setting.

If I wanted to "balance" races, I would most probably not try to do it with

the rules system. I would look for balancing factors within the setting, for

example "Elves are disliked by Humans, and are treated accordingly", and

would introduce that kind of "balancing" into the way I portray the setting.

Personally, I find that balance through role play only goes so far... I mean, look at Dark Elves from 2nd Ed D&D... they were way more powerful than any other race and the only 'balance' really was roleplay restrictions, but if you get a group of people who trust you, those sort of things don't matter in the wilderness very much. It's widely regarded as one of the failings of Advanced D&D that they went by that method.

The other problem is that the lack of balance is mechanical. Elves, for example, don't have RP advantages as much as mechanical ones. so seeking balance out with that doesn't really always work, at least for me.

Ok, so you charge the elf more for his stuff in town, or he get's snubbed by the locals. So he holes up in the room, or in the wilderness outside, and lets his human buddies who have learned to trust him, deal with buying his gear or other such things. Sure, when he is constantly getting picked on by the town guard, its a hassle, but there are ways around it.

And it also only works if that is the setting. My campaign world human's treat Dwarves with respect, but their stats are generally much better than humans, so that doesn't work.

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If you're interested in balance, you'll probably be using some sort of points-buy system (though maybe only for skills). So to balance the races as well, just make them also cost some of those points, proportional to the benefits of the race. Easy, right?

Britain has been infiltrated by soviet agents to the highest levels. They control the BBC, the main political party leaderships, NHS & local council executives, much of the police, most newspapers and the utility companies. Of course the EU is theirs, through-and-through. And they are among us - a pervasive evil, like Stasi.

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I didn't know there were other creation methods (for skills) in BRP that weren't point buy.

Anyway, in theory, yes, this is true. The question is the specifics. How valuable is 4d6 in a stat versus 3d6? What about things like nightvision (I'm imagining the super power section might help me out there)?

Also, I'm very hesitant to remove skill points for special abilities. In theory it works fine, but it seems odd that 'Elder Races' that live longer than humans would be less skilled than they are.

I'd probably simply be more restrictive on them, which is to say that starting skills might get spent in specific ways to model culture and upbringing, while humans have more latitude.

That still doesn't seem entirely to solve the issue.

So, what would be wrong with giving humans an advantage or extra Hero Points?

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So, what would be wrong with giving humans an advantage or extra Hero Points?

Nothing at all. I know several games where Humans get such an advantage,

including D&D 3.0 and LotR, and it always seemed to work well.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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Also, I'm very hesitant to remove skill points for special abilities. In theory it works fine, but it seems odd that 'Elder Races' that live longer than humans would be less skilled than they are.

The Elder Races live longer, that's true. They don't necessarily start adventuring at a later age though. You can easily say to those players who wants to play non-humans that htey have to start with younger characters to balance out their superior stats. Or you can say their childhood is longer, where they are sheltered and primarily learn skills such as plant lore, mineral lore and the like, while humans learn more adventure-related skills from a lower age.

SGL.

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Balancing races isn't really a problem.

Characteristics are individual to particular species, so trolls are going to be bigger than dwarves, dwarves are stronger than elves, elves are cleverer than trolls and so on. That's a fact and shouldn't be an issue.

Inherent powers aren't a problem either. Some species can do things naturally, some can't. Glorantha trolls use Darksense, other creature can see in the dark, others can swim or breathe underwater, others can fly. This isn't a problem either. Don't even try and balance these out otherwise you cripple the original concept of the species.

The main problematic area is that of skill generation. There are several approaches to this.

If you say that people get more skilled over the years through experience then the longer-lived species get a massive advantage. Anything living for more than a couple of hundred years are super-skilled with most skills well over 100%.

If you say that PCs are rolled up at a certain level then you can work out the skills but then have the problem of justifying the skill level. You are going to get the player who asks why his 200 year old Melnibonean is the same skill level as a 30 year old human. So, you have to be realistic about things and perhaps give longer-lived PCs a higher starting level. Or say that longer-lived species take longer to learn things as they don't have the same focus as shorter-lived species.

Also, don't forget that some species have specialist abilities that they will be better at. So, Melniboneans will be naturally good at magic and an Expert Magic User will be younger than an equivalent human Expert.

So, all in all, I wouldn't bother too much about balancing species. If players complain then tell them that some races are better than others. If everyone become an elf then show them that elves have weaknesses.

Power gamers will always pick the most advantaged species, other roleplayers may well choose interesting species.

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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Given my recent exploration into creating alien characters with BRP, it is safe to say that game balance will be the province of the Gamemaster, not the game system. It is unrealistic in games whose power scales are greater than Epic or Superhuman to even worry about balancing the game. There are sufficient powers, mutations and other abilities that the most effective means of balancing the game will be HOW the GM deals with the players and their circumstances, and less on what the players start the game with.

The basic rule always applies: These rules are a guideline for the development of characters in a roleplaying setting. The GM has the final say as to what appears in his game. End of Story. So if a player decides that he wants to create something that defies the spirit of the game that the GM is creating, then the GM has to evoke his right to deny said character construct until it resembles something the GM wants to be dealing with in his game.

Balance is not real when you get players who can do incredible and fantastic things without effort. The Spirit of the Game is what matters most. Can everyone have fun without anyone taking too much of the spotlight? If not, then something went wrong somewhere...

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Balancing races isn't really a problem.

I don't agree.

Characteristics are individual to particular species, so trolls are going to be bigger than dwarves, dwarves are stronger than elves, elves are cleverer than trolls and so on. That's a fact and shouldn't be an issue.

Sure it should, if there is no reason to play humans, then no one will.

Inherent powers aren't a problem either. Some species can do things naturally, some can't. Glorantha trolls use Darksense, other creature can see in the dark, others can swim or breathe underwater, others can fly. This isn't a problem either. Don't even try and balance these out otherwise you cripple the original concept of the species.

If a race has all sorts of advantages, and few to no disadvantages, then why shouldn't you try to balance things out?

If you say that PCs are rolled up at a certain level then you can work out the skills but then have the problem of justifying the skill level. You are going to get the player who asks why his 200 year old Melnibonean is the same skill level as a 30 year old human. So, you have to be realistic about things and perhaps give longer-lived PCs a higher starting level. Or say that longer-lived species take longer to learn things as they don't have the same focus as shorter-lived species.

That's possible, the question becomes: what is a reasonable cost/balance?

So, all in all, I wouldn't bother too much about balancing species. If players complain then tell them that some races are better than others. If everyone become an elf then show them that elves have weaknesses.

What are those weaknesses? Back in the day, playing d&d and ad&d, almost no one played humans, because there was nothing interesting or compensating for them to compare to the abilities/cool factor of the non-human races.

Power gamers will always pick the most advantaged species, other roleplayers may well choose interesting species.

Luckily, I only have one power gamer in my group. However, he's also a good roleplayer. That's not my concern, I don't want players feeling cheated later on in play when they want to play a concept but someone who's simialr non-human concept simply always outshines them (like a Melnibonean in just about any SB game, etc, etc).

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Well, all of this depends on the stats in question.

Using RQ as a base, elves were slighter and not as strong as humans, while dwarves lack size and dexterity.

So their edges were balanced out well enough against humans.

It also depends greatly on your game. If we are talking about a dungeon-hack, then combat strength is the balancing factor.. if we're talking about something else, then it gets more nebulous.

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I didn't know there were other creation methods (for skills) in BRP that weren't point buy.

Anyway, in theory, yes, this is true. The question is the specifics. How valuable is 4d6 in a stat versus 3d6?

The default system is random rolls for characteristics. But since there is a point-buy system for these stats, the BRP rules do have an answer to that question. (A complex one though, since some stats are worth more points than others. Either 3.5 or 10.5, I guess, on average).

With the points-buy system, non-human stats could be a non-problem if you ignore the suggestion that the GM "should adjust your starting points and/or initial characteristics appropriately" (or just decree that it's appropriate to give nothing extra). Then the only advantage they get is higher/lower racial limits to buy up/down to.

So, what would be wrong with giving humans an advantage or extra Hero Points?

In principle, nothing. But, to be fair, shouldn't other races also get that option if they're willing to forego some stats or skills?

Britain has been infiltrated by soviet agents to the highest levels. They control the BBC, the main political party leaderships, NHS & local council executives, much of the police, most newspapers and the utility companies. Of course the EU is theirs, through-and-through. And they are among us - a pervasive evil, like Stasi.

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As someone earlier stated, this is as much an issue of setting as it is anything else.

If you are playing in a High Fantasy (generic DnD) setting, where anything is possible, Elves and Dwarves walk down the town streets of the town along with humans, Elder races accepted as equal or superior, etc., then I can see "balance" becoming an issue. In most fantasy worlds though, at least the ones I've played in, this has not been an issue. There are ways the settings can normally take care of this.

In Glorantha, there are elves, and you can play them. If you are out adventuring though, you are broken, an anomaly, shunned by your race. You don't get aid from them. In some extreme cases I've seen, GMs have imposed random illnesses of varying degree as the elf moved away from their forests. Dwarves are much the same; in fact they loose their immortality if they break the tenants of their race. Also, both races numbers pale in comparison to humans, though they have still been able to raise huge armies and march them out in the past.

In Pendragon, this isn't so much an issue as you are all playing humans, but the issue of what to do with The Brick is still handled. There is the Winter Phase, where the game turns from adventuring to Court and family. You go to feasts, dances, try to win ladies favors, build your family, and gain grants of land from your lord. This all in an effort to assure that your progeny will have enough to become a proper knight (and to gain Glory).

Both of these are cultural based solutions in the setting. Family obligations, Lord, etc should all play a part in the interaction of powerful with non-powerful. This should limit the min-maxing of the races to a certain degree.

Other options might be natural predators?

SDLeary

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Sure it should, if there is no reason to play humans, then no one will.

If stats were the only issue then everyone would play Centaurs - strong, large and dextrous with an extra attack each round. Or perhaps Mistress Race Trolls.

It depends on the game setting. Look at Glorantha, most of the cultures are human, so most of the PCs are going to be human. But you can play the other species as well.

If a race has all sorts of advantages, and few to no disadvantages, then why shouldn't you try to balance things out?

I don't start from the premise that all the species are equal. There is no way that a duck and a troll can be balanced. Trolls are big, tough and good in darkness, ducks are small and wiry and good in water. But balanced? No way.

That's possible, the question becomes: what is a reasonable cost/balance?

That depends on your game and setting. I'd just let players choose the same level of experience and start from there. It isn't one of the things that I bother about.

What are those weaknesses? Back in the day, playing d&d and ad&d, almost no one played humans, because there was nothing interesting or compensating for them to compare to the abilities/cool factor of the non-human races.

I always played humans in AD&D, I've never played a non-human. In RQ, I normally play humans, although I did play a centaur for a long while. Species stats were never really important to me. I looked at the background, the cults and the setting rather than thinking "Elves have Infravision, oh goodie".

What are the weaknesses?

In RQ terms, elves are stuffed outside their forests, dwarves are stuffed outside their mines, trolls don't like it in the daytime, centaurs are crap in caves, wind children can't take being underground and so on.

RQA is a game that has fairly well balanced species, more so that AD&D. By balanced I mean that there are no stand-out species, except for Mistress Race Trolls or Real Dwarves. So, trolls can see in the dark. So what? If I play a Yelmalian then I can get Catseye and see in the dark anyway, or I can cast Light or light up a torch. Elves are quick but Wind Children can fly. Trolls can see in the dark but centaurs can run fast.

Luckily, I only have one power gamer in my group. However, he's also a good roleplayer. That's not my concern, I don't want players feeling cheated later on in play when they want to play a concept but someone who's simialr non-human concept simply always outshines them (like a Melnibonean in just about any SB game, etc, etc).

Yes, Melniboneans are the elite species in the Young Kingdoms setting, but they have their weaknesses. They are arrogant and take risks. They are a dying race and are doomed. They don't care for mortal pursuits and prefer the pursuit of pleasure in its various forms. They are roleplaying weaknesses rather than stats weaknesses.

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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A lot of the 'balancing' that is being mentioned is purely rp based. That is setting dependent. This is a new generic rules set that will hopefully attract a new set of players, maybe even D&D'ers. Since there aren't (that I'm aware of) and settings for BRP just yet, many new players will approach the game with a more 'traditional high fantasy' approach. Elves won't be stuffed outside their forests, nor dwarves outside their caves.

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In old gloranth Rq Human where pretty much the best race. Trolls had better stats but then they where also allergic to Iron. Only the Agimore , who where primitive hunters , and Ogres , who where lynched if they knew who you where had better stats.

And a 200 year old Melibonean should have less skill points then a 30 year old human since he has spent the last 180 years in a drug induced haze.

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A lot of the 'balancing' that is being mentioned is purely rp based. That is setting dependent. This is a new generic rules set that will hopefully attract a new set of players, maybe even D&D'ers. Since there aren't (that I'm aware of) and settings for BRP just yet, many new players will approach the game with a more 'traditional high fantasy' approach. Elves won't be stuffed outside their forests, nor dwarves outside their caves.

BRP Species are generally different than, say, AD&D races.

Elves are powerful in AD&D not because they have infravision or have slight stat bonuses but because they can be multi-class, which is a huge advantage. BRP Elves don't have this because in BRP anyone can be anything. So, an elf can be a fighter-mage as can a troll, an orc, a Melnibonean or a human.

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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Elves are powerful in AD&D not because they have infravision or have slight stat bonuses but because they can be multi-class, which is a huge advantage. BRP Elves don't have this because in BRP anyone can be anything.

But isn't a Jack-of-all-Trades the Master of None? At least, the truth of this should be the GM's campaign decision, not something forced upon them by the rules.

And over in the Non-Caster Incentives thread, I think we're close to solving that problem, for BRP at least. (The Other System, be blowed!)

Britain has been infiltrated by soviet agents to the highest levels. They control the BBC, the main political party leaderships, NHS & local council executives, much of the police, most newspapers and the utility companies. Of course the EU is theirs, through-and-through. And they are among us - a pervasive evil, like Stasi.

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Elves are powerful in AD&D not because they have infravision or have slight stat bonuses but because they can be multi-class, which is a huge advantage. BRP Elves don't have this because in BRP anyone can be anything. So, an elf can be a fighter-mage as can a troll, an orc, a Melnibonean or a human.

Which was balanced against the fact that they had level limits, while humans didn't. They could advance to any level and possibly dual-class. thus was a sort of balance achieved.

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Balancing races is like balancing character creation...why?

People are not equal, nor are races...a western heart surgeon is not "balanced" with a an afghan warlord, a somali pirate, a new york gang member or catholic priest...not better or worse, just not balanced.

Same with species...a bear isn't balanced with duck or a dragon or a human. Again, not better or worse, just different.

There shouldn't have to be some sort of enforced game balance, but instead have rules balance and setting balance, both of which are enforced by the GM. The GM sets the level/power limits of the game, sets the type of characters and has more than enough power to say "we are playing Call of Cthulhu in 1928 Boston...so your half Melnibonean, half demon, half dragon, 4th edition, 35th level monk assassin IS NOT going to play in my game."

Then slap them and play with your non-twink, non-power gamer friends.

Just my opinion

-STS

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Balancing races is like balancing character creation...why?

Personally, I'm not hung up about balance.

But it's not necessarily about slapping down the powergamer. Maybe it's just to avoid a fledgeling roleplayer being disappointed, to find their interesting character choice is inneffectual compared to their friends'.

Viewed that way, balanced character creation (which must include races) is actually an aid to good roleplaying.

Britain has been infiltrated by soviet agents to the highest levels. They control the BBC, the main political party leaderships, NHS & local council executives, much of the police, most newspapers and the utility companies. Of course the EU is theirs, through-and-through. And they are among us - a pervasive evil, like Stasi.

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Balancing races is like balancing character creation...why?

People are not equal, nor are races...a western heart surgeon is not "balanced" with a an afghan warlord, a somali pirate, a new york gang member or catholic priest...not better or worse, just not balanced.

Because few players enjoy playing the character in the group that can't accomplish anything while everyone else is being 'awesome'.

No, life isn't balanced, but luckily game playing is about escapism, or else why do we spend so much time focusing on the exciting elements of the character's lives rather than dealing with their day to day action as a weaver or a farmer?

Luck was used as a 'balancing' factor, with the caveat that 'everyone has an equal chance' of rolling an 18. This was the earliest form of character balancing, but not necessarily the most fun when someone rolled extremely well and someone else got stuck with someone extremely poor... many are the stories of players intentionally getting their characters with poor stats killed so they could roll up another one.

Ultimately, I started this thread as a means of discussing how to make racial options for a campaign setting with an eye towards making certain that no one was too advantaged compared to anyone else. If you think such things are unnecessary, fair enough, but that's not really what I was trying to discuss.

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Personally, I'm not hung up about balance.

But it's not necessarily about slapping down the powergamer. Maybe it's just to avoid a fledgeling roleplayer being disappointed, to find their interesting character choice is inneffectual compared to their friends'.

Viewed that way, balanced character creation (which must include races) is actually an aid to good roleplaying.

Thank you, yes, that's exactly it! :thumb:

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I don't thinks it's about balance as much as incentive. When writing the character chapter of Chaos & Catacombs I didn't try to balance the races as much as give a reason to like them all. As a writer trying to emulate D&D I couldn't ignore all the racial abilities. So instead I gave an ability to humans that would hopefully make them as "interesting" as the other races ability wise, though no attempt at balance was made. This can be said for the professions as well as many "D&D" professions have special abilities bordering on powers.

I'm not going to get into the details as I feel that what the playtest will be for.

Rodney Leary

Join my Mythras/RuneQuest 6: Classic Fantasy Yahoo Group at https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/RQCF/info

"D100 - Exactly 5 times better than D20"

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I don't thinks it's about balance as much as incentive. When writing the character chapter of Chaos & Catacombs I didn't try to balance the races as much as give a reason to like them all. As a writer trying to emulate D&D I couldn't ignore all the racial abilities. So instead I gave an ability to humans that would hopefully make them as "interesting" as the other races ability wise, though no attempt at balance was made. This can be said for the professions as well as many "D&D" professions have special abilities bordering on powers.

I'm not going to get into the details as I feel that what the playtest will be for.

Rodney Leary

That's why my suggestion of Humans getting more Hero Points. I can't put a 'value' range on it, but I think its certainly something that would have appeal.

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