How I never learned to choose between a slingshot and a bazooka
Balance, I suck at it. In a static story, a controlled, meticulously woven tale, I can balance the heck out of; thugs, red herrings, lieutenants and my big baddie. That's not true, not really. I can IN THEORY, but since I haven't FINISHED any stories, I can't guarantee that claim. In a dynamic role-playing game, with players and shifting stories, I am simply NO good at the necessary balancing act required to make the game rewarding.
In every game I have run, for over a decade, in every setting that I know; from Faerûn (Forgotten Realms/D&D) to Star Wars I have made challenges that either get steamrolled by my players or I absolutely annihilate them like the insects they are. (Asterisk)
How does this keep happening? Two reasons for me.
One: Mismatched Gaming Group Whenever the balance of my games went the way of [insert socially accepted dead thing], I had a hodgepodge of experience among the players. So the challenges that would be suitable for new players were being devoured whole by the experienced players at the table while the challenges that would keep my experienced players on their toes would absolutely leave the new players broken in confidence (which is not conducive to a good gaming experience).
Two: Not understanding the strengths of the players. When I did have a group of all experienced players or all new players, I did not always understand (as I should have) the strengths of the players and their characters. A group of stealthy characters with one brutish hulking fighter are best suited to avoiding fights, dealing with traps and other roguish abilities. Then I would review the characters and find that these rogues were all more of the silver-tongue type and not the lock-picking type so they would be trapped with no way out.
There were ways around both problems and in reality I have maintained a bit more balance than I let on but those times that I lost control I had to use a neat trick that was available as game-master, I cheated. Not for myself, I cheated to keep the players alive. This was the asterisk I listed above.
This has run on for quite a bit so I will wrap this up, but another time I will discuss what things I have done to fix this, but I would like to know what you (the readers) have done to overcome this balance issue or leave a Gaming horror story. Drop a comment or head to the forum topic with the same title.
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