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Thot

Balancing nonhuman player races

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Yes, I know, it is not really part of Mythras' or even the D100 family's philosophy to balance everything. But what if I wanted to? What if I wanted to give opportunities to players to play things that differ from the human norm? Maybe a player wants to play a dragon?

The usual approach in other games is to offer players the option to do so within certain boundaries, but to require compensation by reducing their ability to outshine the other characters somehow. But would one balance them in Mythras?

Now, one idea I had was a "negative luck point" account. That would be an amount of points that can be bought off with luck points or can be demanded to be spent by the GM after a successful roll of any kind in the game. If you still have negative luck points, you need to re-roll that roll and take the worse of the two (or more) results. So if playing a dragon, you would probably, for quite some time in the campaign, be a very unlucky dragon... starting probably with a few hundred negative luck points. Of course, once they are spent, outshining the other players is easily possible again. And how many "negative luck points" would be worth an extra die on STR or POW?

One could also, if such a high power level was okay, just offer extra free skill points and maximum amounts of increase to the less than super players - in the above example, anybody not playing a dragon would end up being a highly experienced human, elf, centaur, or whatever, with the humans being most competent. Or one could possibly add powerful magic items to close the gap. Or experience points might do the same job. But that would mean to play on a dragon's power level. (Please note that the dragon is an EXAMPLE here, it could also just be a centaur, a minotaur, even an elf).

Or what other options would or even do you use in your campaigns were nonhumans do play a role as PC's?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I think you have chosen an example that is too extreme to be informative.  It would be much easier to discuss a dwarf, elf, halfling, or orc character...  For that, I suggest first reading Classic Fantasy, if RAW is not already enough for you.

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58 minutes ago, Thot said:

Yes, I know, it is not really part of Mythras' or even the D100 family's philosophy to balance everything. But what if I wanted to? What if I wanted to give opportunities to players to play things that differ from the human norm? Maybe a player wants to play a dragon?

The usual approach in other games is to offer players the option to do so within certain boundaries, but to require compensation by reducing their ability to outshine the other characters somehow. But would one balance them in Mythras?

Now, one idea I had was a "negative luck point" account. That would be an amount of points that can be bought off with luck points or can be demanded to be spent by the GM after a successful roll of any kind in the game. If you still have negative luck points, you need to re-roll that roll and take the worse of the two (or more) results. So if playing a dragon, you would probably, for quite some time in the campaign, be a very unlucky dragon... starting probably with a few hundred negative luck points. Of course, once they are spent, outshining the other players is easily possible again. And how many "negative luck points" would be worth an extra die on STR or POW?

One could also, if such a high power level was okay, just offer extra free skill points and maximum amounts of increase to the less than super players - in the above example, anybody not playing a dragon would end up being a highly experienced human, elf, centaur, or whatever, with the humans being most competent. Or one could possibly add powerful magic items to close the gap. Or experience points might do the same job. But that would mean to play on a dragon's power level. (Please note that the dragon is an EXAMPLE here, it could also just be a centaur, a minotaur, even an elf).

Or what other options would or even do you use in your campaigns were nonhumans do play a role as PC's?

I wouldn't really go down that route.

  • Dragons are big, they are scary, people do out of their way to attack them. You can't fit a dragon down a small tunnel, so dragons cannot take part in a lot of adventures, they can't even be the guard that waits outside the tunnels for the party to return, as the party wouldn't trust it not to eat the horses.
  • Trolls are big and scary, people don't like them, they take double damage from iron.
  • Elves take double damage from iron, they don't like cities, they like the forests.
  • Dwarves are dull, boring, nobody likes dwarves, trolls and elves doubly don't like dwarves, they are agrophobic and don't like the outside, so make poor wilderness adventurers.
  • Minotaurs are big and scary and everyone is scared of them, they go into Battle rage when injured, so can kill their friends. They fall asleep when their Battle rage is done, so are vulnerable.
  • Centaurs are horsey and can't climb cliffs or squeeze through narrow places. Shergar Sunhoof, my centaur PC, had a block and tackle as part of his equipment, so that he could be lifted up and down cliffs.

That's more than enough drawbacks for me.

What is the difference between a Dragon as a PC or an NPC? For me, the answer should be "nothing". So, does that mean that all Dragon NPCs have disadvantages as well? It makes no sense to me.

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Rather than imposing arbitrary (and divisive) mechanical disadvantages on the dragon character,  highlight the social and roleplaying implications:

1. How is a 40' dragon going to fit into Ye Olde Tavern to meet the patron? How bored is the dragon player going to be when the characters decide to explore the Grimdark Caverns where everyone of SIZ 13 and over has to crouch? How about the delicate trade negotiations where the dragon has to remain absent because the ambassadors of Grimdark Kingdom are simply terrified of giant fire-breathing reptiles?

2. Everyone for miles around is going to flee when the party shows up, their tame dragon in tow. This is going to make life tough for everyone, no matter how friendly the dragon might be.

3. The sheer amount of food the dragon needs to consume means it will likely be more concerned with feeding than adventuring

4. Those eager to slay a dragon to prove their worth/take vengeance/wear its hide/steal its gold are going to target the party and come up with highly inventive ways of beating the dragon. And the characters.

5. Dragon psychology is most likely quite alien to human psychology, with separate passions and drives. Reinforce those to the hilt. Would a dragon even want to go adventuring?

Part of the problem of imposing mechanical restraints to achieve some kind of parity between characters can be difficult to do. It always breaks down at some level, and quite often, the mechanics have to be tailored to the species. You wouldn't apply the same mechanics devised for levelling a dragon to, say, a harpy, or an iqari (side note: Pete played an iqari very successfully in one of my campaigns, and despite the game advantages iqari enjoy, there were plenty of social limitations that meant we didn't need game mechanics to enforce parity in the party), so there's no one-size-fits-all solution.

I'd also balk at the Negative Luck Pool idea. Why should my dragon be incredibly unlucky for X% of the time? What, aside from game balance, is the justification for this?

Basically, if GMs allow non-human species in their games, and especially highly exotic ones, then you need to accept that they will not be the same as human characters, and trying to engineer balancing mechanisms are likely to become arbitrary and unsatisfactory, the more removed one becomes from the human norm.

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22 minutes ago, lawrence.whitaker said:

Rather than imposing arbitrary (and divisive) mechanical disadvantages on the dragon character,  highlight the social and roleplaying implications:

 

 

If there are any. The dragon may simply shapeshift via magic into a human (someone's gameworld's magic may allow for that, we don't know). And similarly, what about superhumans that are visually indistinguishable from humans, where such a method would simply fail?

Players, at least a certain type of them, have a desire to be roughly on an equal level. That's the reason why Mythras offers a point-buy method for character generation, after all. So, SOME method to offer a (not necessarily over-precise, but working) balancing between such extremes would be nice to have.

 

22 minutes ago, lawrence.whitaker said:

I'd also balk at the Negative Luck Pool idea. Why should my dragon be incredibly unlucky for X% of the time? What, aside from game balance, is the justification for this?

 

Oh, that one is easy. It should not, it just does, simply for game balance, if using that method.

 

22 minutes ago, lawrence.whitaker said:

Basically, if GMs allow non-human species in their games, and especially highly exotic ones, then you need to accept that they will not be the same as human characters, and trying to engineer balancing mechanisms are likely to become arbitrary and unsatisfactory, the more removed one becomes from the human norm.

So basically, you have no suggestions to make other than those already in the rules? ;)

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35 minutes ago, soltakss said:

What is the difference between a Dragon as a PC or an NPC? For me, the answer should be "nothing". So, does that mean that all Dragon NPCs have disadvantages as well? It makes no sense to me.

Well, the difference is, the PC dragon is played by a player in a player group. The NPC is not. At least in some (in my experience, most) groups, there will be a desire of being somewhat equally powerful. My question for this thread is: What are alternative methods for achieving that design goal - without getting too detailed like GURPS or Hero System do?

Edited by Thot

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7 minutes ago, Thot said:

Well, the difference is, the PC dragon is played by a player in a player group. The NPC is not. At least in some (in my experience, most) groups, there will be a desire of being somewhat equally powerful. My question for this thread is: What are alternative methods for achieving that design goal - without getting too detailed like GURPS or Hero System do?

Ah, you see, I treat NPCs the same as PCs. I don't have one rule for PCs and one rule for NPCs. 

That, for me, was one of the great strengths of RQ, NPCs get experience rolls, can join cults and obey the same rules as PCs.

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2 minutes ago, soltakss said:

Ah, you see, I treat NPCs the same as PCs. I don't have one rule for PCs and one rule for NPCs. 

That, for me, was one of the great strengths of RQ, NPCs get experience rolls, can join cults and obey the same rules as PCs.

You can only treat things the same where they are sufficiently similar. Where they are not (such as being played by a player or not), that will provide problems.

Guys, I get that this does not come up in your games. In mine it does, so please, please, please, can we focus on solving the problem over debating whether it exists or not?

 

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1 hour ago, Thot said:

You can only treat things the same where they are sufficiently similar. Where they are not (such as being played by a player or not), that will provide problems.

Guys, I get that this does not come up in your games. In mine it does, so please, please, please, can we focus on solving the problem over debating whether it exists or not?

 

I wasn't dismissing your ideas, just saying why I wouldn't think they were necessary.

As to solving the problem:

  • Extra Luck Points for other races - You work out a system of handicaps for races, with each worth a certain amount of Luck Points, then assign the difference to the other players. So, if a human is 0, an elf/dwarf/troll is 1, a centaur/minotaur is 2 and a dragon is 3, a party with huamsn, an elf and a dragon would mean the elf gets 2 Luck Points and the Humans get 3 Luck Points. That way, they can be more heroic and can do more than the dragon.
  • GM Luck Points - The GM has the same number of Luck Points to be used against the problematic PC, so the GM would get 3 Luck Points for NPCs to use against the Dragon.
  • Disadvantages - You assign a number of Disadvantages to the problematic races, which makes them weaker. These could be general disadvantages or ones specific to the PC. So, a Dragon might have a religious geas of Never Breathe Fire Indoors, or a Troll might have Never Hide Under Bridges.
  • Restrictions - You restrict the Professions available to problematic races, so a Dragon might only be a Warrior or Sage. Also, restrict the skills they can use or the spells they can learn.
  • Some races might not get cool stuff, so you give out human armour, weapons, things a dragon cannot use, that way the other PCs get more kit and the dragon gets nothing
  • Enemies - Problematic Races get more enemies. A Dragon is a Dragonslayer magnet, for example. In combat, who are the NPCs going to fight, the humans or the Dragon?

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[quotejSo basically, you have no suggestions to make other than those already in the rules? [/quote]

I’ve just offered you several very valid suggestions that don’t involve imposing arbitrary mechanics to impede one particular character example (that you suggested). Mythras makes every effort to avoid arbitrary restrictions, penalties and limitations (without very good cause) throughout its mechanics. It’s part of the game’s design philosophy and quite carefully thought through. So, no. If I had such mechanical solutions to offer, they’d be in the rules already.

And I think Matt E makes an excellent suggestion; take a look at how Classic Fantasy handles class and race parity there - although you’ll find it’s based on structuring advantages, rather than imposing disadvantages.

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6 hours ago, soltakss said:

As to solving the problem:

  • Extra Luck Points for other races - You work out a system of handicaps for races, with each worth a certain amount of Luck Points, then assign the difference to the other players. So, if a human is 0, an elf/dwarf/troll is 1, a centaur/minotaur is 2 and a dragon is 3, a party with huamsn, an elf and a dragon would mean the elf gets 2 Luck Points and the Humans get 3 Luck Points. That way, they can be more heroic and can do more than the dragon.
  • GM Luck Points - The GM has the same number of Luck Points to be used against the problematic PC, so the GM would get 3 Luck Points for NPCs to use against the Dragon.

So, that of course begs the question, what would be a reasonable amount of (one-time or permanent?) luck points?

Mythras equates  6 points of POW with one (permanent, regenerating) luck point. Assuming that all characteristics are of the same value, we should be able to determine the amount.

A dragon would have about 189 points in characteristics (adding its average values), as opposed to a human's 89. That would mean in that group, we'd somehow close the gap by assigning a total of 17 positive or negative regenerating luck points (100/6, rounding up). This is without counting in the dragon's natural armour or its wings, etc. Let's say we assign each of these things a point value of 2 attribute points, in the case of armor, per point of armor. Then we end up with an additional 38 attribute points, or roughly 6 luck points on top, which sets the total amount to 23.

In the less extreme example of a centaur in the group (97 average characteristics points plus 1 point of armor in just over half the character's hit locations, so that's 2 additional points), we'd be looking at 4 luck points, either granted to each of the human players, or subtracted from the centaur player's, or a combination thereof.

 

That is just a very rough method, of course, but I don't believe more than that is needed.

 

6 hours ago, soltakss said:
  • Disadvantages - You assign a number of Disadvantages to the problematic races, which makes them weaker. These could be general disadvantages or ones specific to the PC. So, a Dragon might have a religious geas of Never Breathe Fire Indoors, or a Troll might have Never Hide Under Bridges.

 

The problem with that is indeed that it gets extremely unwieldy and detailed - I mean, look at the vast amount of disadvantages systems like GURPS offer. Lots of work for the balance-oriented GM, I'd say. (Though I guess one could simply port GURPS's system over, I believe that's too detailed for most purposes.)

 

6 hours ago, soltakss said:
  • Restrictions - You restrict the Professions available to problematic races, so a Dragon might only be a Warrior or Sage. Also, restrict the skills they can use or the spells they can learn.


You mean like "sure you can be a Melnibonéan, but not a sorcerer, and you can't learn spells"? Seems a lot more impacting on a character concept than some luck points or even disadvantages. I mean, the point of allowing such species to a player is to allow them more options, not fewer, right? And if it doesn't (because the player wanted to play a dragon sage all the time), there's no meaningful power balancing happening, I'd say.

 

6 hours ago, soltakss said:
  • Some races might not get cool stuff, so you give out human armour, weapons, things a dragon cannot use, that way the other PCs get more kit and the dragon gets nothing

 

That's particularly difficult, because then you'll have to keep detailed track of the characters' possessions. I'd rather not do that.

 

6 hours ago, soltakss said:
  • Enemies - Problematic Races get more enemies. A Dragon is a Dragonslayer magnet, for example. In combat, who are the NPCs going to fight, the humans or the Dragon?

They'd perceive the PC's as a group, and attack them as a group (selecting targets based on their assessment of the situation). I'd rather not impose NPC action limitations based on PC group balance, at least not so blatantly openly. :)

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7 hours ago, lawrence.whitaker said:

Mythras makes every effort to avoid arbitrary restrictions, penalties and limitations (without very good cause) throughout its mechanics. It’s part of the game’s design philosophy and quite carefully thought through. So, no. If I had such mechanical solutions to offer, they’d be in the rules already.

Yes, I am aware of that. But you know, sometimes I want to get a screw into the wood with a hammer. :D

Quote

And I think Matt E makes an excellent suggestion; take a look at how Classic Fantasy handles class and race parity there - although you’ll find it’s based on structuring advantages, rather than imposing disadvantages.

In my (German-language) copy of Classic Fantasy , the races do indeed also have disadvantages, especially lower characteristics. Elves are weaker and smaller, for instance.  That's not necessarily balanced to the last bit, but then again, it doesn't need to be. Just noticeable enough to give players a sense of parity.

 

 

 

Edited by Thot

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2 hours ago, Thot said:

So, that of course begs the question, what would be a reasonable amount of (one-time or permanent?) luck points?

Mythras equates  6 points of POW with one (permanent, regenerating) luck point. Assuming that all characteristics are of the same value, we should be able to determine the amount.

A dragon would have about 189 points in characteristics (adding its average values), as opposed to a human's 89. That would mean in that group, we'd somehow close the gap by assigning a total of 17 positive or negative regenerating luck points (100/6, rounding up). This is without counting in the dragon's natural armour or its wings, etc. Let's say we assign each of these things a point value of 2 attribute points, in the case of armor, per point of armor. Then we end up with an additional 38 attribute points, or roughly 6 luck points on top, which sets the total amount to 23.

In the less extreme example of a centaur in the group (97 average characteristics points plus 1 point of armor in just over half the character's hit locations, so that's 2 additional points), we'd be looking at 4 luck points, either granted to each of the human players, or subtracted from the centaur player's, or a combination thereof.

 

That is just a very rough method, of course, but I don't believe more than that is needed.

Personally, I wouldn't slavishly tie the extra Luck Points to Characteristics.

Is a Dragon unbalanced because it is cleverer than a human or has more POW? Not really. It can fly, breathe fire, has thick scales and can rip people apart with tooth and claw.

Instead, I'd have something like:

  • Characteristics: About humanlike + 0, Better than Human +1, Way better than Human +2, Massively better than Human +3
  • Powers/Abilities: About humanlike +0, Useful but not devastating +1, Some devastating +2, All devastating +3

OK, so that gives a dragon +6, a giant +3, a troll +3, an elf +2, a dwarf +2 and so on.

Having 23 Luck Points per session is way over the top, but having +6 is manageable.

The problem with that is indeed that it gets extremely unwieldy and detailed - I mean, look at the vast amount of disadvantages systems like GURPS offer. Lots of work for the balance-oriented GM, I'd say. (Though I guess one could simply port GURPS's system over, I believe that's too detailed for most purposes.)

I agree, but it's a way of balancing.

 

You mean like "sure you can be a Melnibonéan, but not a sorcerer, and you can't learn spells"? Seems a lot more impacting on a character concept than some luck points or even disadvantages. 

Yes, I agree, which is why I don't balance races. You want races balanced, but balk at ideas as to how to do this.

 

I mean, the point of allowing such species to a player is to allow them more options, not fewer, right? And if it doesn't (because the player wanted to play a dragon sage all the time), there's no meaningful power balancing happening, I'd say.

If you restrict Professions then you control, to a certain extent, what the PC can do, which means you can limit what skills they start with. That affects balance.

 

That's particularly difficult, because then you'll have to keep detailed track of the characters' possessions. I'd rather not do that.

That isn't what I mean.

You give out items that humans can use, but not a dragon. You don't need to track what items the dragon has.

 

 I'd rather not impose NPC action limitations based on PC group balance, at least not so blatantly openly. :)

 

Not at all.

If I faced a group with 2 humans, an elf and a dragon, I would focus all my fire on the dragon. A dragon can attack 3 people w=per round and can breathe fire, so it is the equivalent of the other 3 opponents. Anything else would be unrealistic.

 

I'd rather not impose NPC action limitations based on PC group balance, at least not so blatantly openly. :)

But, you'd rather impose something on the PC to hobble that PC, quite blatantly openly?

It seems as though you want to balance races, but think that balancing races disadvantages the PC. Of course it does, which is why I don't like the idea. Any auto-balancing means that some races are disadvantaged and some are advantaged. 

Are you going to give Halflings more Luck Points because they are small? What about less intelligent or less powerful creatures such as Trollkin? Do they get extra benefits?

Even worse, what about my human PC who has all characteristics at 8 and my other PC who has all characteristics at 18? Are they balanced? A weak troll with STR 15 is not as strong as a human with STR 18, but you'd balance down the troll?

If you are going to balance races, you need very strict guidelines as to how you determine who needs balancing and how.

 

 

 

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24 minutes ago, soltakss said:

Personally, I wouldn't slavishly tie the extra Luck Points to Characteristics.

Is a Dragon unbalanced because it is cleverer than a human or has more POW? Not really. It can fly, breathe fire, has thick scales and can rip people apart with tooth and claw.

Instead, I'd have something like:

  • Characteristics: About humanlike + 0, Better than Human +1, Way better than Human +2, Massively better than Human +3
  • Powers/Abilities: About humanlike +0, Useful but not devastating +1, Some devastating +2, All devastating +3

OK, so that gives a dragon +6, a giant +3, a troll +3, an elf +2, a dwarf +2 and so on.

Having 23 Luck Points per session is way over the top, but having +6 is manageable.

I'd argue that a dragon (as written in the book) has many different advantages, which would all need to be somewhat counterbalanced, but scaling it down the way you suggest seems more manageable. The granularity you suggest also seems to be in line, generally, with how Mythras handles things. I like it!

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