Game Balance? Yes, No, and It Depends

I wanted to talk today about “Balance” in games. There is much debate on the need for balance in games and where and how to accomplish this. I will admit what follows is my own opinion on this but it comes with over 25 years of playing and designing games.

When I was young, I thought Balance was necessary to a game simply from a pure mechanics basis. If list A didn’t balance list B then neither list mattered and needed to be redone. I spent hours making sure that armor balanced weapons which in turn allowed for Magic to balance with martial abilities. It was an all consuming thing to find that pinnacle of game balance.

It was hard work; difficult and unyielding work to balance every piece in how a game works. Then I read something, I cant remember who wrote it originally but I know somewhere it was through Mick Bradley, of Harping Monkey Fame, that I came to this quote. (I paraphrase) “Don’t sacrifice awesome for fear of Game balance.” I was blown away as I deconstructed this thought.

This is when I started to shift focus. Game balance is important don’t get me wrong and mechanical balance can not get to far out of whack, but where your balance point, that’s what’s important. Now every type of game has different points of balance and for each GM and gaming group you have to find your own, that’s the simple truth, but I digress. We will get back to this in a moment.

Where was I, ah yes. The focus of balance. As I grew into understanding “Don’t sacrifice awesome for Game Balance.” I came to realize it was never about Balance but about mechanics. I started looking outward and realized that the game we play and the hobby we define ourselves by is one where the artists are the participants and the critiques at the same time. The art of Role Playing happens at one time in one place and with only the people participating with it and can never be duplicated again. We can argue later on podcasts and vidcasts and art later.

With this in mind I started to see how the group I was with determined Game balance on such a different level then pure mechanics. Mechanical game balance needs to happen but only in as much as playing the game needs some kind of rules. Outside those rules the group is the ultimate determination. As GM I found that balancing the game had more to do with Spotlight then pure Mechanical balance. We had a social contract, most often unspoken about sharing the cool and the awesome at our table.

This is where Design and balance start to fall apart. You have to be careful and not rely to heavily on one or the other, mechanical balance and social balance. Both of these are needed in some way. The game you are playing must have some internal consistency or the whole thing falls apart, and the group must agree on a balance of play that everyone has fun with. Otherwise the purpose of gaming falls apart.

When asked about game balance in games my answer has become, Yes, No and it depends. It is important but don’t let it kill the awesome, which you and your gaming group determine.

What is a RPG

Thanks to a certain RPG designers post I’ve caught on to a lot of angst once again in the community about what is an RPG. While I don’t agree with Mr. Wick on most of his points there is one I agree with. I wanted to put my thoughts out there simply because I can. Role Playing games by the strict definition of the words is a Game where you take on the Role by playing.

I know that seem like a cheap way to define it but I wanted to deconstruct that a bit. The one place I agree with John is that when playing an RPG the end result is some kind of story. The purpose of playing a role is to build some kind of before and after narrative even if that narrative is very game centric. This is why WoW can claim to be a RPG. There is a narrative, albeit, very linear and without any variation.

To claim someone has to play a role only they can play in real life or to truly act out is not the purpose of a RPG. There are really in my estimation 3 types of games. Two if you want to get technical. The first is a Game to tell a story. This would be your gun porn, charisma roll toting games that allow someone to play any role whether they have the skills or training to act out that role in real life. The “Game” portions allow us in our “make believe” to further the story without penalty of our own knowledge, or technical training background. Since by definition you the player are taking on a role this classifies as a Role Playing Game.

The second type of game we see is a Story to play a game. Many games that we consider Indie fall within this category, but also games like FATE can fill this niche. The purpose here is more focused on telling the story and give better benefits from the rules when a narrative is being met then actual statistics or rolls. The abilities of the Player to Role Play personal knowledge or ability tend to overshadow pure mechanical adjustments. Again you are taking on a role and telling a narrative. Thus it classifies as a Role Playing Game.

I did say there was a 3rd type and this type of game is more a hybrid of the two forms. There is a game portion that has mechanical influence but the Roles are allowed narrative control and an individuals personal knowledge, ability and creativity can in places overshadow a need for rolls or even can cancel the need for roles completely but allows for rolls in certain circumstances.

One last thought to assume someone has to personaly be charsmatic enough to play a high charisma character is flawed inherently. Simply by the fact that I as GM going into teh conversation knows there is an end goal of the Player trying to Convince me clouds the final decision.

In my humble conclusion by my definition of Role Playing Games any game that allows someone to play a role to tell a narrative whether by rolls or role playing can be and is the definition of a Role Playing Game. This is strictly speaking my opinion and while I feel I am right as in most things your miles may very but don’t judge me and I wont judge you.

Dwarves of Erinbour

I want to discuss the Dwarves for a moment. They are not native to Erinbour but instead were brought here by the Otherkin primarily by Azure. They came over as slaves, workers and fodder for Azure’s armies. It was their revolt against Azure that allowed Mai and her companions to overthrow Azure and the rest of the Otherkin.

The Dwarves live by a formal Caste System. One that was established long before they came to Erinbour. There are 6 Castes if you include the Castless. They are Farmers, Shielders, Miners, Forgers and Noble.

Farmers: This is the lowest caste. They are charged with maintaining food supply, dealing with the dead and anything relating to growing living things. Dwarves see themselves as elements fo the earth therefore above “living” things. This caste is respected for the importance it plays in keeping the clans fed and clean of disease.

Shielders: These are the protectors and warriors that defend the Clans from intruders and the darkthigns of the mines.  The Casts is the only cast that openly accepts members of other castes. Many a farmers son or daughter has upped their status by joining the ranks of the military.

Miners: This cast delves deep into the earth searching for the raw elements hidden beneath. The Miners are revered for their dedication and skill to find that which is hidden. The Mining Castes is also the religious center for the clans and the bring the word of their strange gods to the dwarven clans.

Forgers: These artisans are reveared for their skill to create from which the miners find. Weaponsmiths, armourers, jewelers and other craftsman. Blacksmiths and others enjoy a bit of reverence even from the Nobel Castes.

Nobles: These are the leaders of the clans. They make the decisions that lead the clans forward into time. They decide when they go to war and where. They are also tasked with protecting the Clans from internal and externalthreats.

Mecha Kaiju Kickstarter

MECHA: Kaiju

Project Scope:

Mecha Kaiju is a supplement to “Mecha” by Chris Perrin, the RPG about giant fighty robots. The book will give you all you need to create your own Kaiju or use one we made to add them to your current Mecha campaign. Play through the SRS (Setting Reference Schematic) we provide or enjoy Kaiju in anything from King of the Monsters to any creative Kaiju storyline you develop. The choice is yours to play as a Kaiju or as a Mecha pilot. Either way are you here to help or destroy humanity.

This project is to raise enough money to pay for the final bits of art and layout. As you can see the art is basically done we just need to make a final payment and pay the layout artist the funds to get the book done. We were origionally going to do a black and white version but would love to finish paying the needed amount to get the color versions of the art, plus a little extra to make a small print run of color softcovers beyond the backers to get them in some FLGS.

For those new to Mecha, it is a Role playing game where you take on the role of a mecha pilot. The game is played using a d6 dice pool roll under mechanic. The game rules are designed to help simulate the Mecha Anime that is out there. Less about the minutia of mecha construction like previous mecha games, Chris Perrin’s Mecha is designed to replicate the episode format of an Anime series.

A NOTE TO INTERNATIONAL BACKERS:
We are planning to bill you a more direct shipping price specific to you and we are going to use BackerKit to do that. The different dollar amounts is an attempt to separate by region to better handle shipping.

From the ocean, a giant lizard attacks a power station, causing an environmental catastrophe.

A world government trades freedom for luxury and hides the truth about the existence of huge creatures known as kaiju.

People all around the world dream that Taoitora is coming, bringing pain and death to us all.

And somewhere, Order and Chaos continue their eternal struggle.

This is Mecha: Kaiju

Thank you for stopping by Mecha Kaiju.

Information on additional books We are offering several rewards of our previous books in the Mecha line. The books are the core rulebook, Chris Perrin’s Mecha, our two supplements, Combiners and Mercenaries. Combiners is our love letter to Voltron and all combining mecha genre. Mercenaries is a gritty SRS that adds more nuance to your mecha builds. Also available will be Mekayana , a mythic India meets mecha SRS and Reign of the Descendents our love letter to Invid Invasion written specifically at the request of Dan Repperger of Fear the Boot.

Stretch goals:

$2,500 – Kaju 52 – a book of our Kaiju of the Week offering.

$6,000 – Super Sentai – this is our next Mecha project. The book is written we just need art. Super Sentai take your Mecha pilot outside his mecha and gives them additional abilities.

Elves of Erinbour

I talked earlier about the Elves are true Ogres from Erinbours History, and as such they retain the same as that culture did milenia ago. Wiped out by disease from the Otherkin the ones to survive  took the Name Elven or Survivor.

Elves live and work within a matriarcal hierarchy of families. There is no noble or Commoner in Elvish society. As an elf you belong to a Family. There are currently 15 Families that make up the Elven nation. Each Family is lead by a Matriarch that oversees the families affairs. She makes all decisions.

She is suported by her immediate family. Each Family is loyal only to themselves and while they have kinship with the other families they are seen as rivals. Each house has a goal to out do their rivals, this sometiems spills into open aggression, but ussually is usually  reserved for backroom operations.  Many a thieves guild can find hidden backers within the Elven families.

Erinbour Next Steps

I am writing this update to all of our backers and people that have shown us support for Erinbour these last few weeks. It does not look like we are going to get to where we need to be. Do not fret Erinbour is not going away. The gang and I still see this as a setting that is our love letter to Fantasy so we will go back and develop more re package our marketing and be back very soon to try again.

Erinbour did not lose on Ideas, the support we have seen and the comments we have gotten both publically and privately show us that it hasn’t failed. The kickstarter didn’t succeed but that just tells us we need to build from where we are and try again soon. Between that time though we are going to run a smaller more directed campaign for our Mecha Kaiju book which is a part of an established line and something that we can build off of to bring Erinbour out. You will be able to get contiual updates here at www.myheroicjourney.com as Erinbour grows.

Again thank you so much for your support stay in touch and we will be back very soon with a changed focus and more directed approach. This is a delay not a defeat.

Knights Magus

The Knight Magus is an order of knights that stand at the ready for the Wizards Council of the College of Magic. They are typically scholars, researchers, teachers and advisors in their normal functions.  However do not take them for anything less then knights.  Each is combat trained to use magic and steel with deadly accuracy.

Secondly and most importantly the Knights Magus enforce the magical law. They are the arm of the wizards council designed to be weilded like a  scalpel to defend mages even from themselves. The Knights train more then a typical wizard as they are skilled in both the arcane and armements of typical knights. One thing that seperates them from other knights is that they tend to favor study in one weapon. This allows them to split their focus and master the martial as much as the arcane. Each knight chooses a weapon upon induction to the knights and spends the next year mastering that weapon before they see active duty. This is usually in a Wizards 3rd year at university.

Knights Magus in keeping with their wizardly personalities tend to be calclating, logical as well as having a strong independent nature and curiosity. Most oporate alone or in pairs and have the freedom to interpret orders as they see fit except in case of War.

If you have any questions or comments about the Knights Magus or Erinbour please feel free and share them.

Kickstarter Backers get an upgrade

Visit the Kickstarter Here

I am currently working on a Mini-Campaign/Stand alone adventure set in the Wilds of Erinbour. This adventure “Th Villiage of the Damned” was written by David Hill and is a good example of the strangeness that can be found in Erinbour. This will be sent out to all current and future backers. It is fully playable for Pathfinder. I need to rework stats to work in Bare Bones Fantasy, that is the hold up at the moment. It should be available by Wednesday this week and will be a DRM free PDF pre production adventure. We have it on the table for a post production version and all backers will receive the post production version once we have the art finished and final layout done.

A bit about the Adventure…

 

“I’ve had this ale before. I had it last night. I had it the night before. I don’t know how many times I’ve had this same damned mug of ale, but I know it’s been the same stale mug for years. I know that every night, I’ve told all the patrons here. I know that every night, they laugh. I know that every night, they worry for my sanity. I know that I can’t leave. So tonight, I’m just going to drink. I’m going to drink to lost loves, to lost lives and to lost futures. I also know that you’re new. You weren’t here yesterday. Would you care to join me?”

-Dane, Proprietor of The Mayfly’s Arms

Erinbour: Magic (preview)

As we prepare for a successful Kickstarter I’ve been roughing out ideas for how magic will be handled in this product. Since we want to make character actions influence the setting directly I will be exploring ways to play off of the existing kingdom building rules in Ultimate Campaign, as well as devising new and interesting meta magic that harnesses the power of the land and the bloodlines it is tied to.
The magic system will include support for all character types through the use of new feats, traits, and archetypes as well as new “classless” arcane and divine items. Prestige classes will be crafted for those who wish to focus on the new forms of magic presented, and new monsters utilizing these rules will be unleashed from our menagerie.
While I am inspired by the old TSR setting Birthright, I think our final product will be solidly different. The Pathfinder rules allow for a much greater level of customization which will allow us to make this magic truly permeate the land!
This was written by George “Loki” Williams

Erinbour: Sirens

Written by Chris Perrin this is planned as a Playable Race in Erinbour

 The Sirens of Erinbour

One of the things we wanted to do with Erinbour was step outside the established fantasy races. Sure, we wanted to include humans, elves, dwarves, halflings and so on, but we also wanted a new playable race for our game. So, while I was standing in a mall in Omaha, Nebraska, we came up with the idea for sirens.

(Of course, why the mall is important or what got the idea rolling is a secret that I probably won’t be sharing anytime soon…)

What is a siren?

Sirens are a water-loving race that primarily reside along the southeastern coast of Erinbour. Though the sirens of (Earth) myth are often given fish tales (or made merfolk outright), the sirens of Erinbour mostly arose from their oceanic origins around the time of the otherkin invasion and quickly gained sentience, language, and culture. They were largely neutral at first, though many were quick to fight for Mai.

What does a siren look like?

For the most part, sirens stand anywhere from about four-and-a-half feet to a little over five feet tall. Their skin has, for the most part, lost the scales it shared with their watery ancestors. However, they have not lost the bright colors of blue, gold, and red for which many water creatures are known.

Hair, on the other hand, is pretty rare amongst the sirens who have only had the ability to grow it since the curse. For the most part, many sirens continue to be bald while a few now have full heads of luxuriant hair, normally colored red, blue, or dark brown.

What can a siren do?

Physically, sirens tend to be strong and have an innate sense of magic. This magic manifests itself in the fabled siren’s song which is normally used for calming siren youngers and for retelling siren history. However, the siren’s song can also have more nefarious purposes and has been known to enrapture weaker willed humans, dwarves, etc. Also, if sirens are angry, they can send out a sonic blast capable of breaking glass, ear drums, and occasionally, bones. In other words, it’s not good to get too close to a siren, nor is it a good idea to make them angry.

Types of sirens

There are several groups of sirens, all of which share a common genetic lineage. The most common sirens are those seen walking the lands of Erinbour. They tend to need to drink higher amounts of water than a human or dwarf, but other than that, they could pass as brightly painted young humans.

There is also a group of sirens that have not grown hair, nor have the shed their scales. These humans are still bipedal and capable of traveling the whole of Erinbour, however, they must immerse themselves in water at least once a day to prevent their scales from drying and eventually flaking away.

Lastly, a few sirens never managed to develop legs. These sirens are almost indistinguishable from merfolk except that they are completely covered with scales and must stay in water to breath. These type of sirens are much less common today than during the time of the otherkin’s arrival and given their low birthrates, may disappear from the lands of Erinbour forever.

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