From Question about “class balance”:
Veketshian: I’m curious about what makes a class in OD&D and, by extension, ACKS, “balanced and playable”, if this is even a concern of classes. I’ve only ever really seen arguments occur regarding 3.X material, and they were always phrased in comparison to other PCs rather than the monsters even though PvP is generally not an option. I know that if someone posted a homebrew of a best base attack bonus with sneak attack on the Paizo forums, they’d call it overpowered, yet the assassin in ACKS is pretty much that. Is “class balance” a primary motivator for constructing classes, or are there other goals in mind?
Blizack: I remember plenty of arguments about class balance in the AD&D 2nd edition days. I can’t really speak to anything before that.
Veketshian: Would those arguments be in about the same vein of “X class is overpowered compared to Y and Z classes”, or did they argue about class balance in a different fashion?
Blizack: Mostly stuff like you describe (i.e. “fighters are lame compared to rangers” and the like).
Slycne: I was apart of the 101 session campaign that led/morphed into ACKS, so I can shine some light on the situation.
Despite classes running the gambit from being widely varied to some sharing many features, it felt like everyone could find or carve a niche for themselves with a combination of play style, proficiencies, spells and/or items. So no one class felt like it was completely dominating all the time.
I can’t directly speak to what the precise goals were, but mechanics like cleaving and fighter damage bonus defiantly helped the fighter related classes feel like more than simply damage sponges at higher levels (a complaint often brought up against D&D & kin with regards to fighters vs magic-users).
Alex: I think Justin Alexander wrote an excellent essay on class balance:
Using his parlance, ACKS could be described as using a mix of Concept, Naturalistic and Spotlight balance. Naturalistic Balance appears because of the high death rate of low level characters (and characters in general), and the way XP is earned only for surviving adventures and getting back to town with XP. A lot of naturalistic balance is built into the setting assumptions. Spotlight Balance is a result of the fact that different aspects of the game (exploration, diplomacy, combat) favor different character choices.
ACKS also uses what I’d call “longitudinal concept balance” or balance over time. Character classes which are very diverse have high XP requirements and level caps. Such characters advance slower, and are thus less likely to survive past the critical level 1-level 2 thresholds, and they cap out sooner, so they don’t dominate the end game.
We did make some effort to correct some concept imbalance we saw with regard to the general power of fighting-men v. spellcasting, which we think the weapon damage bonus and cleaving has accounted for.
Alex: With regard specifically to the assassin, they are definitely a fun and cool character class. I can understand why a 3x/4e player might think they were over-powered. But:
- The combination of lighter armor and fewer hit points gives them far less staying power than a comparable fighter. An assassin can wear heavier armor, but then he’s simply a fighter with fewer hit points.
- The assassin endgame is a hideout, not a stronghold. This results in a very different character arc over the course of a campaign.
Veketshian: Thanks for the insight. I really appreciate it, and I think it helps me understand the attributes of a class. The hideout instead of a stronghold point really clarifies it.
From Economic pathways for different classes:
Tavis: In some of the publicity stuff I’ve been doing, a continual process of figuring out what’s cool about ACKS and how to crystallize it for others, I’ve found myself talking about a particular class-related path I find really compelling:
ACKS builds on the foundation of its predecessors by providing an integrated economic framework that seamlessly handles the transition from finding your first scroll in a dungeon and scribing it into your spellbook, to planning the caravan routes that will keep you supplied with the exotic beast parts that make your inks, to building a dungeon of your own beneath your wizards’ tower so you can harvest ritual components from the resident monsters."
This progression of activities for wizards I think is really awesome, both because it has something for wizards to be investing gold in at every “tier” of play, and because it gives the rest of the party ways to get involved - not just helping the wizard get gold (although GP and economics is a great focus precisely because it is universal and concrete) but also seeking scrolls as treasure, guiding the caravans, manning the tower and scouring out the dungeon, etc.
It gets me thinking about how this plays out for other classes. Thieves’ progression toward starting a thieves’ guild is obvious, as is fighters’ progression toward a stronghold.
- Are there enough inter-related activities along these pathways? Do we need to provide more lower-level stuff that’s part of a fighter or thief’s journey?
- I’m thinking that for a cleric, the path to a church would involve tracking worshippers. Should we have rules for how expenditure into making converts translates into gaining faithful adherents, with modifiers similar to the trade demands table?
- Should there be a pathway for each class, or is the general fighter/thief/magic-user/cleric breakdown archetypical enough that most characters will tend to pursue activities along one or the other pathway? (I like the theory that nonhuman classes would have separate pathways, but am having a hard time visualizing how their activities would be different.)
Beedo:Tavis - I think the 4 main economic paths should work for any class permutations. I’ll go through and re-read to get a stronger opinion on how the approaches are set up right now. My general take is that Magic Users spend the most along the way (transcribing spells, maintaining books and libraries) and it sounds like they have significant construction for their tower and dungeon, without a corresponding income from taxes. Many times they have to get subsidized along the way by other players. I’ll look at it all some more this evening.
I did have some other observations for the campaign/economics section - maybe I missed these:
Regarding demographics, was there anything on a percentage of leveled/classed characters? Ie, how many clerics and magic-users per 1,000 people?
How does magic change the default world? How much does it cost to have spells performed by an NPC spell caster? (I do realize some of the practical effects of magic on battlefield strategy are coming in the mass combat book- wahoo).
Still thinking through the implications of the “carouse to pass on XP to your next character” rule. It goes to the question, if 80% of XP comes from treasure, how to keep adventuring from destroying the economy? Most name level guys will have a half million GP. The XP for Inheritance rule is a metagame approach to drain the coffers, and fits a Swords & Sorcery vibe. Glad to see no ‘training rules’.