Eyeballs Deep in Scarlet Emerald

6.19.2018

Power Balance is a Myth


Without dropping names, I keep seeing attempts to add power balance into gaming material. I’ve seen this in blog entries, in a book I've worked on, and a handful other places. I thought the whole point of the OSR was to add crazy off-the-(mind)-map shit that could fuck a whole party in one round (edit: if you so desired, or the dice just went that way, and so on).

Seriously, is this just a knee-jerk holdout from recent converts?

Shitty GMs?

The OSR’s creeping version of “Show, don’t tell”?

Maybe it's just unwitting bad design (I'm no saint here. I don't have the XP yet...) In some instances, it seems to be about projected personal control, and it tends to deliver that worst of game killers, lack of player agency. You may as well be a story gamer (I don’t care, just making a point of difference. Game how you like).

Having the X factor in play is another indie/OSR deal maker for me. Not quite at peak David Tennant Doctor Who levels - it has to be a bit more measured - but that mystery element should brush up against and ideally be accessible to characters in the proper amount.

Only a GM can decide how much is enough. Authors and game owners trying to control this amount is foolish, a waste of time. Make a toolbox/game biome/other, release it into the wild, and fuck right off, seriously.

Game balance is a myth, unless you like beating square pegs into round holes until the fun oozes out. At best, it’s an approximation, but that’s it. Otherwise, why not just write for Pathfinder or 5E? (And good luck with that three-hour-long five round combat.)

Simple, quick, accessible, weird, X factor, immersion, tone, player agency, tell me a fucking thrilling story, show me the blood of heroes - in beating hearts or a broadening pool. These are the things I think of in great games, what I still do this for, what I want to write and run.

"Here's an apple, here's a gun. Don't talk to strangers." ~ Lockout