Thursday 20 May 2010

Balance is More than Just One in Each Hand

Putting what I've said recently a different way:

The goal of balance in an imaginative game with player-customized elements (someday soon I'll think of an elegant phrase for this) is to have players feel free to choose roughly the same range of options that exist in the shared vision of the game's setting.

The shared vision most usually comes from the fictional sources of gaming, or by now from gaming itself, the way it has incorporated and recycled its source material into DungeonWorld Standard. But it can also come from reality or from myth. Indeed, in writing my latest gaming work (the former Bag of Tricks that is quickly coming to cover a whole lot more than tricks), I switch back and forth between naturalistic and mythic perspectives. In doing this I hope to shake loose some of the fixed ideas of the adventure-game, and shake free a few ideas. So let's do that here.

Take the longsword versus battleaxe choice. Both are part of fictional fantasy archetypes. Dwarves, minotaurs and barbarians, for one, wouldn't be the same without their axes. Knights, rogues and just about everyone else live and die by flashing swords. You don't want people to feel dumb about taking an axe or a sword into a fantasy hackfest. That's the status quo of gaming, and it's easy to rest on that.

Now, both sword and axe were used historically, as well. But this might not mean that adventuring parties in your gritty, naturalistic world should freely sport axes and swords as they very well please...

Next post I'll examine the historical record. In the meantime - what was up with these guys? Which one was the min-maxer and which one was the scrub?

Indeed, there is no such thing as halfway crooks.


  1. That first sentence is awfully well said. "Balance: has acquired a lot of negative connotations in the wake of WD&D, but it needn't. Ideally, it means that one doesn't have to argue between his head and heart.

  2. Funny, though, you said it even better and shorter - "head and heart." Some people's heart is in the game, but others' is in the setting. You want to accommodate both.