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On Balance Points

A lot of words have been exchanged as of late concerning the perceived value of each particular Balance Point. Having heard from both sides of the issue (through observation if not direct conversation), my conclusion amounts to the following, which I have already related to some in several chat discussions. This just has a little more permanency. The crux of the argument as I’ve seen it is whether or not the Rogue Balance Point should be held up to the standard of being the ideal BP (for which Ghostwheel is the primary advocate). Many of the other respected users on the site (led by Surgo) have argued against this stance in favor of the idea that no BP be put onto a pedestal above the rest and that they all have their own merits. While I would like to agree with the latter, it is not difficult for me to imagine why some would be in favor of GW’s view.

In order for my point to be made, it seems prudent that I include a short breakdown of each particular Balance Point:

  • Monk: There is no point of contention here; no one is advocating for the inclusion of Monk-level content. I think we all agree that if you’re a Monk-level character, you’re little more than a liability plain and simple.
  • Fighter: While the Fighter BP has spawned some usable classes, I feel that the general consensus is that its power level isn’t up to snuff when playing alongside Rogue- and Wizard-level characters. I think that’s true; while they may be decent enough to manage by themselves on occasion they are largely too weak to actually contribute to a group effort without extensive optimization that most casual players cannot achieve. Yes, I know that there are other things to D&D in combat, but combat is the single greatest portion of the timeframe of most campaigns. That being said, if you can’t do something to help a party in combat then you basically aren’t worth having around.
  • Rogue: Here we are, the focus of the debate. Is Rogue-level ideal, as Ghostwheel claims? To a point, I think it is. A Rogue-level class has been proven by the SGT to be capable of holding its own in various situations, proving that it doesn’t totally suck (like a Monk) or at least have some glaring deficiencies (like a Fighter). Simply put, a party of Rogue-level characters can get the job done, even if they don’t go around blasting everything in sight with a vast array of magical effects and save-or-dies (traditionally more reminiscent of the Wizard-level spectrum). It’s only when the Wizard-level characters are involved that things may get a little dicey.
  • Wizard: Wizard-level characters are basically the workhorses of the part; if you want something done, you turn to the ace (in this case, the wizard). A party of Wizard-level classes (when used to their full potential) is a color spraying, glitterdusting, flying, and all-in-all shit-wrecking group. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not condemning the Wizard-level classes in any regard—they are certainly fun to play and everyone loves beating up on helpless monsters—but when paired with classes of a lower Balance Point the wizard and similarly powerful classes take away from the feeling of team accomplishment because, well, the wizard did everything. It would be like if the Cavaliers had actually won an NBA championship while LeBron was their only good player (zing!).

Human nature being what it is, someone in a party is going to want to play a wizard, and why not? Wizards are badass. But human nature will also compel his not-so-powerful team members (the fighter or barbarian in an SRD party) to question their importance, and that’s probably a fair assessment. At low levels, the wizard needs the meleers to be his/her meat shields, but once the spells start coming and the wizard gets more and more self-sufficient, their team starts to become an entourage that relies on them to kill everything. And that’s not right. Everyone wants to be included; what the hell’s the point in having a party if the inverse were true?

As a result, GW’s setting of Rogue as the ideal BP is a way to allow everyone in a party who uses a class of that BP to contribute (or to let them know that they had options when they decided to pick something lower) while at the same time preventing one person from stealing all the glory with their awesome Wizard-ness.

OK, my nonsensical rambling is done.

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