Game Balance in Your Group

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There are a number of issues that can affect overall game balance, and specifically the relative "worth" of encounters, which are not directly based on the level of the creatures involved. Since many of these variables are part of having a flexible system that allows for extensive freedom for players and GMs, we prefer to simply accept them and warn you in advance.

Please note that the variables below do not have a "right" value. Many people honestly differ in their preferences in these issues, and we are not taking a side. Instead, we are offering ways to calibrate your encounters and campaign design to a set of preferences or tendencies that may exist in your gaming group.

Party Composition

Traditionally, class-based RPGs have a set of roles that different classes fill particularly well. Some characters have large amounts of health and can absorb damage while wrecking enemies at [Melee] range. Some characters can scout and do damage when attacking from stealth, and others have the ability to control battlefield conditions, destroy groups of weak enemies, or support, buff, and heal their allies. In many systems, each of these abilities is tied to a specific class – Fighters tank, Rogues scout, Wizards nuke and control, and Clerics heal. There isn't a great deal of flexibility on these roles, and indeed some game systems explicitly assign a particular role to each class.

In Legend, between multiclassing, skill use, and class design, it's possible to fill several different roles with any one class, depending on how an individual character is designed. The "standard" Barbarian class, as written, can withstand a great deal of direct attack and specializes offensively in destroying large numbers of lesser mortals; socially, Barbarians work best with the Intimidate skill because of track features that support intimidating opponents. However, a multiclassed Barbarian could change from attacking large numbers of weak opponents to devastating a single powerful opponent – or even become a capable forester and scout. We believe that multiclassing gives players a great deal of freedom to play the character that they want to play without breaking the game.

Still, even if players have a great deal of flexibility in picking abilities for their characters, and even if it is theoretically possible to have a party of two Barbarians, a Paladin, and a Ranger and still have all of the party's bases covered in terms of combat, skill use, and general utility, there's no guarantee that the players in your own group will coordinate well enough to have a party whose bases are covered. Without that coordination, some encounters may be much more difficult than expected. For example, a party at or above level 6 which doesn't have anyone who can fly or make powerful ranged attacks is in serious danger from creatures like dragons.

If you find that your group is in this situation, there are a few responses that are likely to solve your problem. First, if you have any contact with your players during character creation, you might consider advising them to coordinate better in their character creation process. If the players are set on their character concepts, they might at least fill in some "holes in the lineup" by picking cohorts or allies . This is probably the best solution, because gameplay goes along as normal with minimal disruption to anyone's plans.

Alternatively, you could offer your players the use of a free ally – a GM-controlled character who would assist them and generally follow their direction. Since this character would be an autonomous creature of the same level as the rest of the party, you would increase the party's EL to account for an extra member. Unfortunately, using a GMPC that's an integral part of the party can be very difficult.

Finally, if you choose to let the players live with the consequences of their party makeup, you should compensate for the mechanical imbalance by increasing the EL of encounters with which the party is not equipped to deal. We recommend that if you use an encounter where an enemy has abilities that the player’s can't counter, you treat that encounter as having an EL one higher than it normally would.

Character Optimization

Depending on your background in role-playing games, this phrase may immediately raise your hackles, bring back fond memories, or leave you wondering what the phrase means. But at its simplest, "character optimization" simply refers to a continuum of how much effort a player puts into ensuring that a character is mechanically powerful. Legend is designed to ensure that classes are, on average, roughly equal in terms of power. However, poor feat and ability selection, or particularly synergistic feat and ability selection, can effectively "move" a character's capability roughly one level in either direction.

If all of the players in a given group optimize to a generally similar extent, the solution is relatively simple. Adjusting encounter levels to match the characters' actual capabilities is easy enough, and you can get a good idea of the characters' actual abilities over the first few game sessions by using a series of encounters that are the characters' level and one level in either direction.

If some players in a given group optimize differently, consider working with the "outlying" players to bring their characters' power level into line with the rest of the group. Often, differences of this sort arise because some players in the group have different amounts of familiarity and mastery of the game system; if that's the case, encourage players who understand the nuances of strategy and economy to help players with less understanding.