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Grimoire of the Balanced Wheel (3.5e Sourcebook)/Introduction

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Introduction Edit

Why Do We Even Need This? Edit

One more book, another mound of text that requires reading... But why do we really need this? Isn't D&D fine as it is? Some people play wizards or druids, others play monks or fighters, DMs spend an hour creating a single custom monster, working out things such as saves and BAB according to HD, ability scores, feats, skill points, and more, and then having a combat that either ends up ending on the first turn with the monsters debilitated and unable to fight well, or killing the whole party because of how screwed up the CR system is... Yeah. Some people have noticed that the system, as written, doesn't work very well. There is a large disparity between the power of different classes, the system which gauges the strength of monsters is completely FUBAR, at different levels characters can be completely out of line with the expected power levels of equivalent monsters, and there's absolutely no guideline for how strong a monster should even be.

Another thing that always aggravated us was how easy it was to die--on both sides of the DM screen. A single save-or-die (such as Flesh to Stone, Finger of Death, or even Phantasmal Killer) could mean the end of a PC after a whole campaign of adventuring, while the same spell cast by a PC could mean the end of what was to be an epic combat between the PCs and the final boss who had been behind all the machinations which led to their many adventures.

And then there was the 15-minute workday and all that it entailed; casters might blow their entire load of spells in an encounter or two, and then call for a rest. On the other hand, if the party was under a time table, the fighters might need to pick up the slack and potentially die in encounters to come when they couldn't rely upon the aid of the spellcasters to help them. In an effort to remove such things, Grimoire presents rules that allow classes to balance to a per-encounter rather than per-day system in a way that's both balanced and interesting, allowing characters not to be a burden as the day wears on, nor to be too powerful at the start of the day. With the change to a system that was balanced towards a more per-encounter perspective came the need to change many spells that were far more powerful than similar abilities other characters had at certain levels, and these were implemented to allow spellcasters and the like to be both powerful, flavorful, yet not overly so.

Next was the problem with magical items, where some PCs felt like they needed to give mounds and mounds of gold in order to keep the characters at the same place as comparable enemies (as per the Character Wealth by Level rules presented on page 135 of the DMG), while others gave virtually nothing, feeling that a +2 sword was special enough for 18th level characters with no need for any of the other equipment that comes with the DMG. The rules presented in this sourcebook allow characters to stay on the Random Number Generator as far as equipment goes, while at the same time giving options for magic items given out by the DM or as part of the character in and of themselves.

With each of these rules, design notes will be added in to explain why the specific rules were chosen and how they affect the game to give both players and DMs a better understanding of how the game works from a design standpoint.

<Add about epic encounters that last 8 rounds against balanced encounters that are quick and easy to create, rather than insta-death, paradigm focused on damage = death, etc>

But how Powerful is Powerful? Edit

Just by glancing over the base classes in the PHB and comparing their numbers, one can easily see that some classes are stronger than others. The balance that this specific system leans towards is the rogue level, where classes such as rogues, bards, warblades, swordsages, duskblades, crusaders, psychic warriors, and others make up a party. However, the system is flexible enough that it can be toned down, allowing fighter level or even monk level games to be played using it--all one needs to do is turn down the health and damage that are assigned to certain monsters depending on what kind of characters the party has.

But what about wizard-level games? Couldn't one simply do the opposite, turning up the health and damage of monsters in order to allow higher-level characters to fight challenging battles? Well... not so much. Wizard-level classes often have encounter-ending abilities if no limiters are set, and can often wipe out a single encounter in a round. For example, imagine a Sculpted Glitterdust against enemies who use sight (which happens often enough). Suddenly, virtually every enemy can't see for a number of rounds, which means losing Dex to AC, taking -2 to AC on top of that, moving at half speed, having to guess what square enemies are in, having a 50% chance to hit, and more. If enemies have no way of breaking free, they are essentially fodder for the PCs and pose no real threat, the combat becoming boring and uninteresting as other characters simply play cleanup crew.

This can be not only frustrating to PCs, who feel as though they're there to simply clean up after a wizard-level friend, but also to the DM who may set up combats that are meant to be epic in nature, where PCs battle enemies back and forth to barely grasp victory in the last moment of battle. Rather than on simple luck and logistics--that is, whether enemies failed their saving throw, and whether the PCs have exactly the correct spell to combat them with (pre-battle choices), battles should instead rest on tactics and in-battle choices where players make meaningful tactical choices that influence the tide of battle.

More information can be found on why the rogue level of balance was chosen here.

Design Goals Edit

Some of the design goals of the system include...

  • Shorter rounds in real-time by...
  • Making spellcasters less prominent.
  • Simplifying monster abilities.
  • Have PCs be pre-optimized but not very optimizable which means...
  • PC classes are good straight out the box, and are powerful within their own right, allowing one to take just about any feat for flavor's sake.
  • Classes aren't very optimizable, meaning that even if someone optimizes considerably they still won't put other characters who aren't optimized to shame.
  • This also removes some of the disparity of power between characters of different classes and build choices.
  • Move towards a more cinematic type of combat that's 6-8 rounds long.
  • Tactical combat choices make a bigger difference rather than planning, due to everyone being towards the middle of the random number generator.
  • Characters have an interesting list of choices in combat, where feats come in. Feats are there primarily to introduce options, rather than pure power.
  • Make DMing easy after the setup, especially the building of encounters. Scrap the CR system for something that works.
  • This also means limiting the power of PCs to completely go off story rails, putting the DM in a bad situation where he has to make things up on the fly.
  • Monsters should not have immunities that render players completely useless.
  • World-changing and story-derailing abilities should be kept out of the hands of players for the most part (with exceptions for story purposes).
  • Keep everyone on the RNG as far as modifiers go.
  • Allow people to adventure for the whole day rather than having the "15-minute workday" problem, with a soft cap using healing surges.
  • This makes it so that people aren't very strong towards the beginning of the day and then suck the rest of the day.
  • It also gives people a reason to continue adventuring rather than choosing to rest between encounters to regain daily abilities.
  • Players can rest if they want to, and it won't give them a sizable bonus, which means that the DM doesn't need to throw "filler" encounters to make characters balanced according to the D&D 3.5 encounter system where characters are supposed to have 4 encounters per day to make the daily abilities balanced.
  • Subsequent encounters don't need to be easier due to the party's loss of resources.
  • Simplify magical items so that a character's power comes from their class, rather than their equipment.
  • Allow all characters to contribute in social interactions.
  • Play the same basic game at higher levels, rather than the game (and potentially story) breaking down once PCs come close to level 20.
  • Get rid of Character Wealth by Level, make the Big Six part of a character's power rather than items that are needed for the character to be any good, and remove the "Christmas Tree" magical item effect.

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