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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Combat Balance

I've been avoiding posting about the Mike Mearls discussion of game balance, because I figure I've already expressed my feelings about game balance long ago (although perhaps I should dig it out of RPGNet, spruce it up, and post it as a decent essay or two here, so that it doesn't get lost.) But Randall on the RetroRoleplaying blog talked about making combat shorter so that it's easier to balance total time spent in combat against the time players want to spend focused on combat. As he puts it:
This would allow more combats in a session for groups who want their game to center on combat encounters (and more time for non-combat activity in a session for groups who don't want their game centered on combat), reduce the chance that the players of less combat-centered characters would become bored during combat while leaving the option open for players who just don't find combat the most exciting part of the game to play characters whose main strength is outside of combat.
I'm a fan of short, quick combat, so I certainly agree with this. In fact, I feel that a medium-length combat should be about 5 or 6 turns and should take 10-15 minutes, if that. Perhaps this means that I need some insane Arms Law-ish critical hit system to keep combat with high hit point opponents from dragging on too long. Perhaps this means I shouldn't worry about high hit point opponents: let the players worry about how long the combat will take and choose some other way to eliminate such opponents quicker.

I'll probably lean more towards the latter than the former, since I think combat should be a puzzle for the players: "how do we get past this potential time-suck and resource drain with the minimum loss?" Certainly, if I were to go with a critical hit system, it wouldn't be the "natural 20" approach people typically use, nor would I want percentile-based tables.

But it's something to consider.

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