Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Balancing Act

Balance isn't about making things equal, it's about preserving interesting choices.

Characters

Starter Packages lightly balance characters with higher scores against those with lower, by giving the low-rolling player better equipment.

This is a soft balance, as once play starts those scores begin to fade away behind the players' decisions and the weird things that they find.

Everyone can contribute when playing Into the Odd, and things move quickly enough that any time one character spends in the spotlight is sure to be fleeting.

Weapons

If a rapier is better than a machete in every way then choosing which to use isn't an interesting choice.

Weapon balance is built into the system if you imagine that all weapons start at d6 damage, one handed. Every time you raise the damage by a die type, you have to add a disadvantage.

Field Weapons: d8, but two handed.
Noble Weapons: d8, but very expensive (enough to be a target of theft)
Heavy Guns: d10, two handed AND move or fire, AND expensive.
Power Arms: d10, two handed, AND some other problem.

So you can use this as a guide whenever you're making a new weapon, but bear in mind some qualities are both an advantage and disadvantage.

So a Flamethrower starts as a Field Weapon (d8), but affects everything in a cone. This is great in some situations, but makes it worthless in others, so keep it at (d8 Cone).

A Gatling-Gun, though, can target an individual or spread fire into a cone, so we'll give it the added disadvantage of needing a round to spin and warm up (d8, Cone or Individual, One Round Warm-Up).

Of course you'll want to have really weird weapons, but they probably fall into...

Oddities

No rules here, that's the point. But if you're worried that you've created something too useful (again, defined as removing interesting choices, in this case "should I use this Oddity?") consider applying one of the following:

  • It's immobile.
  • It's a one-shot disposable.
  • It's a living thing with its own agenda.
  • It requires some sort of set up (feed it a heart, it needs to be laid like a trap, only works in specific locations). 

Remember you aren't aiming for net zero here. Oddities are good things to have around. You just don't want any one Oddity to become the solution to all problems.

Monsters

Giant Ants are the worst. In by-the-book AD&D (see them fixed here). They fill a dark checklist that leads to the encounter being incredibly deadly, but equally uninteresting.

  • They're deadly. 
  • They always attack and you can't talk with them.
  • They're faster than you and good at tracking you down.
Characters meeting scary monsters straight out of the gate is one of the cornerstones of Into the Odd. Forget waiting until you've leveled up to meet a Beholder or Purple Work, I want those in your first session. 

You can make your monster as crushingly powerful as you like, as long as give the group something to work with. 
Giants will crush you but they're dumb and their size can be used against them.
Mind Flayers are super smart and powerful, but have bigger plans than just you.
Even this Lich that hates you and has crazy powers is stuck in their crypt, so you aren't just going to meet him in the woods. 

In short, if you make them powerful, pick at least one way to make them interesting:
  • Make them dumb.
  • Make them want something other than killing.
  • Make them restrained somehow. 

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