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Serbitar
Topic is balancing in Shadowrun.
What is good balancing? When is something overpowered and why? Does something as 'overpowered' exist when each player and NPC has the option to use it? How does a system profit from good balance? Why is balance necessary? What has traditionally or in a given edition been overpowered? When is something gimped or nerfed? What has traditionally been nerfed in Shadowrun?

I am currently tweaking my own rule system and am interested in other points of views.

Thanks in advance for your input.
Glyph
There are a lot of things in Shadowrun that, in my opinion, get unfairly designated as "unbalanced". Shadowrunners don't have levels, but instead can either choose to be able to do a great many things, or to do less things but do them more proficiently. The main things that enforce balance are limited resources (you can only do so many things before being spread too thin; conversely, if you focus too much on being super-awesome in one area, you will be overly limited in other areas), and opportunity costs - yes, you can have this cool thing, but it means you can't have that cool thing. Things can be unbalanced, in my opinion, in three different ways:

1) The character does not mesh with either the GM's guidelines or the tacitly expected power level. Sure, you were only making normal, rational decisions for your pistols adept: elf with soft-maxed Agility, muscle toner: 4 bought with the restricted gear quality, cybereyes with a smartlink, and 3 levels of improved ability in pistols (a base skill of 6 with a specialization in semi-automatics). His stats make sense for someone who is supposed to be inhumanly good with a pistol, he can do other things than just shoot, and he has a killer background. But... if the GM said the game is a low-powered game set in the Barrens, or if the other players consider a dice pool of 14 to be high-powered, your guy rolling his 21 dice to shoot things might be disruptive to the game.

2) Sometimes people go beyond normal min-maxing and try to exploit the poorly worded or ambiguous areas of the rules to break the game. The only real solution to this is a GM who puts his foot down. "No, you can't use geomancy to aspect the background count of your astral hazing. No, you can't put gel packs on each individual piece of PPP."

3) Shadowrun is fairly balanced, in an apples and oranges way, in that there are multiple ways in which you can be a powerful character. Something can be unbalanced, though, when it is blatantly superior to other options that do the same thing, or gives too much of a bonus for too little cost. Some of this is intentional - smartlinks were intended to be a game staple, magic and augmentations in general give a cheap, easy boost befitting the game's transhumanist themes, and FFBA and PPP were blatantly put in to give everyone a bit more armor.

A few things are more problematic, though. The SURGE quality of Metagenetic Improvement: Attribute was superior to Exceptional Attribute, giving you an actual Attribute bonus point on top of raising your maximum - for the same cost. Actually, due to how SURGE worked, it only cost 10 points, balanced by 10 points of negative SURGE qualities which didn't count against your NQ cap. Empathy software was unbalanced because it gave a comparatively cheap, disproportionately large bonus - up to 6 dice, which is the equivalent of max-rated Kinesics and max-rated tailored pheromones. Things can be unbalanced the other way, costing more or doing less than something similar. Oni, for example, cost an extra 5 points compared to orks, even though the only difference between them and orks was that oni had a negative quality.
Lionhearted
My favourite standpoint on balancing is: "When everything is overpowered, nothing is"
Serbitar
Interesting points.

However I was more thinking in ways like this:

Conjuring or magic in general is overwpowered while (pure) adepts and technomancers are underpowered. Are costs of metatypes balanced? What about shapeshifters and the Infected?
When are the 3 planes (physical, astral, matrix) balanced? Are they balanced right now? It not, what should one do, whith what goal?

Do you agree or not? Why? Is there more? What is that? What should change?

Tymeaus Jalynsfein
QUOTE (Serbitar @ Aug 30 2015, 04:56 AM) *
Interesting points.

However I was more thinking in ways like this:

Conjuring or magic in general is overwpowered while (pure) adepts and technomancers are underpowered. Are costs of metatypes balanced? What about shapeshifters and the Infected?
When are the 3 planes (physical, astral, matrix) balanced? Are they balanced right now? It not, what should one do, whith what goal?

Do you agree or not? Why? Is there more? What is that? What should change?


The above statements are NOT a fact. They are Situational, at best.

The Planes are equally important and get about the same amount of screen time in our games.
I have been in situations where magic was irrelevant and the Mundane, Non-augmented character was King. I have also been in situations where you NEEDED to be a Mage or you were screwed. By the same token, I have seen the Technomancer come through where no one else had a chance. This can go on, yadda yadda yadda, etc. etc. etc. Balance tends to be an illusion that does not really matter. Shadowrun is good at providing you the tools to make the character you want, and the only thing that matters is the consensus at the table for the power level of your campaign. smile.gif

As for AI's, Infected and Shapeshifters, we treat them as NPC's only, so who cares if they are balanced or not. They are not player options at our table. smile.gif
Sengir
QUOTE (Serbitar @ Aug 29 2015, 11:27 PM) *
Does something as 'overpowered' exist when each player and NPC has the option to use it?

The problem is when things stop being an option and start being mandatory, because they are so blatantly OP that everybody who doesn't have it takes a back seat, or because they are so undercosted that not picking it up would be stupid.

A good example would be MtG: Everybody has the option to play a given card, but when the Top 8 decks at a tournament all play the maximum allowed four copies of the same card, something is clearly amiss. You are supposed to build a deck of 60 cards, not 56 and four auto-includes. In RPGs it's analoguous, chargen is not supposed to start with ticking off things which are not really choices, before spreading the remaining points (or other resource) for some customization.
Serbitar
QUOTE (Tymeaus Jalynsfein @ Aug 30 2015, 04:03 PM) *
The above statements are NOT a fact. They are Situational, at best.


Sure, no facts at all. Just opinions and questions.

However: There is always SOME situation where a given feature/ability/skill outshines all other. BUT this is worth nothing if this situation happens only ever 10 years in a given gaming environment.
So my question about balancing is not about special situations but about the sum of all situations in an average gaming environment.

I am quite sure balance DOES matter to a lot of people out there. Why play a character that is in 99% of the situations outclassed by all other in the group?

But that's just my opinion.
Glyph
The biggest problem with Magic is not so much the power level, but:

1) No caps, when everything else in the game has a maximum. Even if the problem is one that will only come up in high-powered or extremely long-running games, Magic should still be consistent with the rest of the game world.

2) There are too many magical things that can only be countered by magic. Spirits, which are so difficult to affect with mundane weapons at high Force, are the main culprits here.


With augmented adepts, I think it is the result of unintended consequences. They wanted adepts to be good at different things than street samurai. Unfortunately, this lets adepts take augmentations for the areas adepts are not as good at, getting the best of both worlds - getting muscle toner and synaptic boosters in lieu of the costlier adept powers used for improving Attributes or initiative, while taking things like killing hands, combat sense, or improved ability that are not available to the street samurai.

Augmented adepts are also unbalanced in another way - often, adept powers and augmentations stack. The adept can get a reflex recorder, then add two levels of improved ability to it. Or get kinesics: 3 and tailored pheromones: 3. Or get critical strike and bone density augmentation.
Neraph
QUOTE (Glyph @ Aug 30 2015, 05:23 PM) *
The biggest problem with Magic is not so much the power level, but:

1) No caps, when everything else in the game has a maximum. Even if the problem is one that will only come up in high-powered or extremely long-running games, Magic should still be consistent with the rest of the game world.

2) There are too many magical things that can only be countered by magic. Spirits, which are so difficult to affect with mundane weapons at high Force, are the main culprits here.


With augmented adepts, I think it is the result of unintended consequences. They wanted adepts to be good at different things than street samurai. Unfortunately, this lets adepts take augmentations for the areas adepts are not as good at, getting the best of both worlds - getting muscle toner and synaptic boosters in lieu of the costlier adept powers used for improving Attributes or initiative, while taking things like killing hands, combat sense, or improved ability that are not available to the street samurai.

Augmented adepts are also unbalanced in another way - often, adept powers and augmentations stack. The adept can get a reflex recorder, then add two levels of improved ability to it. Or get kinesics: 3 and tailored pheromones: 3. Or get critical strike and bone density augmentation.

Uhh...

1) If you have the HUNDREDS of karma to raise your Magic from 6 to 10, then there's other things going on also. Remember, it's an expensive Initiation that preceeds a prohibitive Stat increase. And raising just your Magic rating means you're not doing other things like increasing skills and learning new spells.

2) It's like people completely forget about elemental effects. A SnS round is the perfect counter to nearly all spirits, up to Force 10. A F6 spirit only requires 1 net success to deal damage to with a SnS round.

Magic is Shadowrun's version of sharks. Everyone thinks they are far more dangerous than they are. You're more likely to die to a carcrash or explosion in Shadowrun than a high force spirit or mage.

EDIT: Edited for further arguments.

1) You admit yourself this is only an issue in long-running campaigns. How is Magic supposed to be "consistent with the rest of the game world" when the rest of that world isn't exactly consistent either. Ex: Troll body versus Human body. There's a massive difference between a 6 and a 15, you know. In a world where a hacker human is tossing 10 dice to reduce damage and a troll is slinging 23, I don't think the unlikely situation where someone gets their Magic to an 8 is really an issue.

2) Further weapons that should be available by the time you're facing high Force spirits: Sniper rifle with APDS rounds, assault rifle with APDS.... hell, any firearm with ADPS. Lasers. Thunderstruch Gauss. Ramming them with a car. Grenades. Technically, toxins still work, so even a Super Squirt with Pepper Punch can take out a moderately-Forced spirit completely by RAW and still be street legal.

Don't get upset that something appears powerful when the real issue at hand is your inability to cope with it.
binarywraith
QUOTE (Lionhearted @ Aug 30 2015, 04:11 AM) *
My favourite standpoint on balancing is: "When everything is overpowered, nothing is"


This leads to just playing Exalted.

That's a bad road, man. grinbig.gif

QUOTE (Neraph @ Aug 31 2015, 05:31 PM) *
Uhh...

1) If you have the HUNDREDS of karma to raise your Magic from 6 to 10, then there's other things going on also. Remember, it's an expensive Initiation that preceeds a prohibitive Stat increase. And raising just your Magic rating means you're not doing other things like increasing skills and learning new spells.

2) It's like people completely forget about elemental effects. A SnS round is the perfect counter to nearly all spirits, up to Force 10. A F6 spirit only requires 1 net success to deal damage to with a SnS round.

Magic is Shadowrun's version of sharks. Everyone thinks they are far more dangerous than they are. You're more likely to die to a carcrash or explosion in Shadowrun than a high force spirit or mage.

EDIT: Edited for further arguments.

1) You admit yourself this is only an issue in long-running campaigns. How is Magic supposed to be "consistent with the rest of the game world" when the rest of that world isn't exactly consistent either. Ex: Troll body versus Human body. There's a massive difference between a 6 and a 15, you know. In a world where a hacker human is tossing 10 dice to reduce damage and a troll is slinging 23, I don't think the unlikely situation where someone gets their Magic to an 8 is really an issue.

2) Further weapons that should be available by the time you're facing high Force spirits: Sniper rifle with APDS rounds, assault rifle with APDS.... hell, any firearm with ADPS. Lasers. Thunderstruch Gauss. Ramming them with a car. Grenades. Technically, toxins still work, so even a Super Squirt with Pepper Punch can take out a moderately-Forced spirit completely by RAW and still be street legal.

Don't get upset that something appears powerful when the real issue at hand is your inability to cope with it.


Stick and shock does not do what you think it does in 5e. It is not a magical effect, and Immunity To Normal Weapons is specifically only bypassed by magical effects. Just because it is elemental typed damage does not make it elemental magic.

QUOTE ("SR5")
IMMUNITY
Type: P Action: Auto
Range: Self Duration: Always
A critter with Immunity has an enhanced resistance
to a certain type of attack or affliction. Effectively, the
critter has a Hardened Armor rating equal to twice its
Essence against that particular kind of damage (see
Hardened Armor, p. 397). This means that if the modified
Damage Value of the attack does not exceed the
Immunity’s rating, then the attack automatically does
no damage. If the modified DV exceeds the Immunity
rating, perform a Damage Resistance test as normal,
adding the Immunity rating to the dice pool for this test.
Additionally, half (rounded up) of the Immunity rating
counts as automatic hits on this test.
Some Immunities function slightly differently, because
the attack they protect against doesn’t do damage,
per se.
Immunity to Age: Some things don’t get old. Literally.
Beings with this Immunity neither age nor suffer the
effects of aging.
Immunity to Normal Weapons: This applies to all attacks
that are not magical in nature; weapon foci, spells,
and adept or critter powers function normally. If the critter
also has the Allergy weakness, then the Immunity
does not apply against non-magical attacks made using
the allergen.

HARDENED ARMOR
Type: P Action: Auto
Range: Self Duration: Always
There’s Armor, and then there’s Armor. This is the latter.
This power provides its rating in Armor, and functions
just like the Armor power. It differs from the Armor
power as follows.
If the modified Damage Value of an attack is less than
the Hardened Armor rating (modified by AP), the attack
does no damage. Don’t make a Damage Resistance test
for the critter; it might not even notice the attack was
made in the first place.
If the modified Damage Value of an attack is greater
than the Hardened Armor rating (modified by AP),
then perform a Damage Resistance test for the critter as
normal. Additionally, half of the Hardened Armor rating
(modified by AP, rounded up) counts as automatic extra
hits on this test.


So yes, S&S's silly -5 AP rating is nice, even though it replaces the gun's rather than stacking, but it's not going to auto-bypass the inherent hardened armor of spirits too far into any campaign. Even for the smaller ones. with Force/2 automatic successes on the damage resistance test the -2S damage code on that Stick-N-Shock is going to make it very, very hard to be effective.

They aren't the 'so obviously great that you're a fool not to use them' cheeseballs they were in 4e.

As a GM, I'd never let the squirt work, either. Unless you're hitting a spirit with something they have a weakness to inherently, like hosing down a fire elemental, they're not biological creatures even when manifest. Thus chemical irritants intended to interfere with carbon-based biologicals aren't going to do anything useful to them.
Serbitar
To add something to the discussion:

Unbalanced:

- Edge. Hackers basically run on Edge. As long as you have Edge, everything is a cakewalk, if its out, you have a serious problem.
- Full defense. Does anybody ever hit anybody else if full defense is used? How long do you combats last?
- Modifiers. The maximum number you seem to get from any one source is -4. That really does not interest anybody who rolls 14+ dice (aka Shadowrunners). Healing in a quagmire? Shooting at extreme range? Perceiving something without IR or LowLight in near darkness? Cakewalk!

Overpowered:
- Mages (Does anybody EVER get drain in 5E? 4th as well. Forgot about earlier ones)
- Spirits (A starting Mage can summon Force 6 Spirits, that are the combat equivalent of a whole streetsam all day. Spirits can now even be Task Spirits and could always have innate spells. Basically a Mage can do everything by himself now). If he wants fun, he buys a summoning focus and specializes in a spirit class and summons force 10 spirits. If drain is too high he tosses in some edge if needed. And there is Spirit-Summoner Link. You cant even take it down silently with a one-shot.
- Astral Space for free (at least you cant hear in Astral space since 4th). Kills all physical sneaking attempts.
- Grenades, although some problems have been fixed in 5e. No idea why grenades are so lethal in Shadowrun, especially against armor.
- Neurostun/Narcojet (Insane! Why is not everybody using it all the time? In any edition.)
- SnS in 4th, Gel in any edition before 5th


Underpowered:
- Technomancers (do I need to say more?)
- Shapeshifters (self evident)
- Pure physical adepts, although this got much better in 4th and 5th
- Dual Natured (what do ghouls do against mages flying in astral space and controll thoughting/stunbolting them to oblivion? Want some money, go ghoul hunting)
- Cyberdecks (want to hack? better be rich! Although they shoehorned some cheap hacking capabilities in with these module things)
Neraph
I disagree, almost wholesale.
Serbitar
QUOTE (Neraph @ Sep 1 2015, 02:31 PM) *
I disagree, almost wholesale.



Well, your disagreement in itself is only a small piece of information. Would you elaborate?

Specifics:

Why do you not agree with a given point?
Do you have other points?
Do you think Shadowrun is balanced to a satisfactory degree in a sense that all options you have at character creation and during gameplay are, averaged over all gaming situations, equal or correctly prized (opportunity cost, karma, nuyen, ...)?
Are you more narrativist, simulationsit or gamist? (If you could divide 10 points on the 3 game styles how would you classify yourself?)
sk8bcn
QUOTE (Serbitar @ Aug 29 2015, 11:27 PM) *
Topic is balancing in Shadowrun.
What is good balancing? When is something overpowered and why? Does something as 'overpowered' exist when each player and NPC has the option to use it? How does a system profit from good balance? Why is balance necessary? What has traditionally or in a given edition been overpowered? When is something gimped or nerfed? What has traditionally been nerfed in Shadowrun?

I am currently tweaking my own rule system and am interested in other points of views.

Thanks in advance for your input.


To me, it's perfectly valid to create a character weaker than the rest of the table. This has nothing to do with the gamebalance. But that should be voluntary.


About Overpowerness and gamebalance, I'd say there are 3 topics:

> Gamebalance revolves around the balance of archetypes. Every profile should give you the same average level of strengthes and weaknesses. Those should be mesured around the field covered by your speciality, your strength in this field and the overall all-aroundness of the profil.

To give a simple exemple: if a cybered samourai grants you a high fighting prowess but remains limited in his options of developpement while an adept gives you more long-term strength but a weaker start, or if an adept simply grants a bit more all-aroundness, that can be seen as ok.
Now, if you're mage is a high burst character and jack-of-all-trades, he would though needs very strong weaknesses to compensate his power and all aroundness. Maybe a low access to his ressources (meaning that the drain should be high). Or a strong counter effect (background counts encountered often enough to be a drawback).
If you had to spend all your character creation ressources to profil that would be an elite driver, the field would be too narrow (which is not SR's case because the rigger has a bigger field than only driving).


> Overpowerness: this is when one option is simply too strong in comparison to other options
It's when a decker is just plain and simple better as a technomancer.
It's when a spell deals same damage as another one but doesn't have the restrictions the other one has.
it's a cyberlimb that grants a few dump-stat bonuses when some gives Initiative Passes.


> The character creation flaw: this is when not having min-maxed at character generation is hard to erase during the game.

Like you did build an all arounder. Your munchkin friend maxed out his attributes using the 1:1 character generation system. While you struggle to raise up your stats, he simply raises up his very low attributes and get way better than you.



Iduno
QUOTE (Serbitar @ Aug 30 2015, 06:56 AM) *
Are costs of metatypes balanced?


Not much comment on this one yet. Yes metatypes are balanced, but they are balanced assuming all stats have equal value (which is to say poorly). It is also worth noting that only humans and elves have stat bonuses without having a penalty. Humans can be partially excused for that because they are also the only metatype without special vision.

Strength is useful almost exclusively for melee combat. Agility is useful for stealth (in a stealth game) and every physical combat action, including melee. With a monowhip, you can even ignore strength. Agility is clearly more useful, but is valued equally to strength for balancing. Having a skill group for each stat would at least mean every stat has a use for one part of the game, and having one non-skill non-combat use (for example, memory tests for mental stats) keeps them interesting for everyone. Limits in SR5 look like they were an attempt at improving this, but...that has been discussed heavily elsewhere.


Money is also difficult to balance the way the setting intends. Runners who have to fight to pay for their next meal getting hundreds of thousands of nuyen in equipment doesn't make sense if they're paid in cash. Fluff says they also get paid in stocks, favors, equipment, and corp script, but then provides no rules or guidelines for such payments or converting one to the other. Poor balance with money means karma-based characters improve at a different (higher or lower, depending on the campaign) rate than money-based characters. Maybe the lesson here is if you intend something to be a balancing factor, make and test rules for it?


Also, choice and balance seem to be frequently at odds with each other. The easiest way to balance everything is to make everything equal, but that's boring. Shadowrun has balance issues mostly because it offers a huge number of options. There are a lot of things to be good or bad at, and several ways to be good or bad at them (skills, stats, equipment, magic, etc.).
binarywraith
Also, a vast amount of the balance depends on your GM knowing the rules and setting better than the players. If they just handwave something like background count or Noise, it hugely throws the balance.
Neraph
QUOTE (Serbitar @ Sep 1 2015, 06:51 AM) *
Well, your disagreement in itself is only a small piece of information. Would you elaborate?

Specifics:

Why do you not agree with a given point?
Do you have other points?
Do you think Shadowrun is balanced to a satisfactory degree in a sense that all options you have at character creation and during gameplay are, averaged over all gaming situations, equal or correctly prized (opportunity cost, karma, nuyen, ...)?
Are you more narrativist, simulationsit or gamist? (If you could divide 10 points on the 3 game styles how would you classify yourself?)

I could point-by-point counter every argument you made. I don't think I'm suited for a discussion in here since I do not really see overbalanced options. All I see are varying degrees of optimization. I mean, for less than the 50 BP in just cash you can walk away with 200+ armor - the real questions are how much do you want and how much are you willing to get.

Not all character options are applicable for all character types, but each quality has its own merits and can work for specific characters. "Game balance" is not so much a mechanical difference as it is a spoken or unspoken agreement by all parties involved to what they are trying to get out of playing the game. It has as much to do with playing a Pink Mohawk vs. Mirror Shades character as it does choosing an Ares Alpha over an AK-97.
Serbitar
@Iduno:

Good points. However: An option is only an option of another option is not completely or in practice completely better than another option. Is Shadowrun still full of options under this definition?

@binarywraith:

Sure. Also worth mentioning in this department are not only the crunch-setting rules you mentioned, but also the setting fluff. A large portion of the drawbacks of a Troll depends on how the GM empasizes the typical Troll problems (Trolls are just obvious at heck and kill most social sneaking attempts because they do not fit socially for most roles).

@Neraph:

Well, if you think everything is balanced and if not can be straightened out by player consensus, this discussion is not for you. However: If a character is, by making a style choice, like playing a certain character type, constantly feeling that he is not contributing anything, because another character is better than he is in practically all respects, he might come to the conclusion that more balance is needed.

Shadowrun is much more gamistic and simulationistic than other RPGs. And the questions: "Can I contribute? Can I shine in my specialty?" are not unimportant and mostly depend on balance. Of course you can agree to "not do this and that although I could to make the guy next to me happy" but that is fixing problems the rules should fix for you.
KnightAries
QUOTE (Serbitar @ Sep 2 2015, 02:19 AM) *
@Iduno:

Good points. However: An option is only an option of another option is not completely or in practice completely better than another option. Is Shadowrun still full of options under this definition?

@binarywraith:

Sure. Also worth mentioning in this department are not only the crunch-setting rules you mentioned, but also the setting fluff. A large portion of the drawbacks of a Troll depends on how the GM empasizes the typical Troll problems (Trolls are just obvious at heck and kill most social sneaking attempts because they do not fit socially for most roles).

@Neraph:

Well, if you think everything is balanced and if not can be straightened out by player consensus, this discussion is not for you. However: If a character is, by making a style choice, like playing a certain character type, constantly feeling that he is not contributing anything, because another character is better than he is in practically all respects, he might come to the conclusion that more balance is needed.

Shadowrun is much more gamistic and simulationistic than other RPGs. And the questions: "Can I contribute? Can I shine in my specialty?" are not unimportant and mostly depend on balance. Of course you can agree to "not do this and that although I could to make the guy next to me happy" but that is fixing problems the rules should fix for you.



I'm with Neraph on most points but one thing I have my 2 out as well. Some players are rules lawyers as are some Game Masters (I have a tenancy toward this for better or worst as player and as GM, in my/party favor or against it) but as a GM my job is to make sure my players are having fun (I will suspend rule for the sake of fun or story and that doesn't mean I'm not willing to kill characters as I intentionally killed 2 in 1 run for a stupid decision they made 6 runs prior). I had players have fun by slipping rules past me, other had fun by making plots I didn't know about (I tend to nix these actions only if they have issues with the story board and I let the players know this), but when there is a character/player that is feeling useless; it's my job as a GM to see why. Sometimes the character was built very poorly like being built for too specific of situations or built to cover too many situation but they are all covered by other characters with a better skill tends to be the 2 I see the most (Over specialize = you're dead; Under specialize = you're dead). These are usually seen in new players.
This leads me to my next points:
1) Why a new player was building a character without talking to the GM in the first place.
2) Why isn't the GM reviewing all the characters to avoid some of these situations
3) why isn't the GM setting up his scenarios to give all the players a chance at something (May not happen every run but the player should have something and as close to evenly distributed as possible)

If you can't tell I'm of the mindset that the GM is in charge of the game with fun for everyone (including the GM) being the rule of the day. If a player isn't having fun then the GM is failing.

you may have that troll that can throw 23 dice for his check for body but how min of the security guards are shooting at him 2 or 3 minimum S/He's a fucking troll with one hand ready to crush your head and a panther cannon in the other hand ready to blow your head off... Big and looks intimidating [maybe he's the decker though and there's the possibility that he could hit the broad side of the barn from the inside] but the small person behind him is the real threat because their shooting skill is so high they can fire 1 bullet and take 2 heads off but can be killed by a damn BB.

Balance is a relative term. The characters have to be compared to the rest of the characters in the party and the only time there is a lack of balance is if a character doesn't have his/her place and/or the GM is ignoring them.

There are game systems that I wont play because I don't see much balance.
Glyph
QUOTE (Iduno @ Sep 1 2015, 07:43 AM) *
Also, choice and balance seem to be frequently at odds with each other. The easiest way to balance everything is to make everything equal, but that's boring. Shadowrun has balance issues mostly because it offers a huge number of options. There are a lot of things to be good or bad at, and several ways to be good or bad at them (skills, stats, equipment, magic, etc.).

This is a key problem when there is a game with a glut of options such as Shadowrun. My attitude is, if there are multiple ways of doing something, it is fine if some of those ways are suboptimal, as long as there is more than one good way of doing something, and as long as one way is not blatantly superior to the others. Also, while some suboptimal choices are fine, it can be unbalanced if making a choice feels like you are getting dinged a tax for it (like my example of the oni cost).

Shadowrun has so many ways to optimize, even within roles such as face or combat specialist, that there are really only a few egregious examples that stand out, and I talked about most of them. I think while there are some overpowered options out there, most game balance problems come from groups where expectations about the power level are not discussed beforehand. It is so easy to make a powerful character, and so easy to make a weak one.

Even disparate power levels don't have to result in an unbalanced game. You can have a detective who does a bit of face, a bit of stealth, and a bit of bang-bang hanging out with a troll changeling augmented death machine ex-pit fighter turned bodyguard. As long as they each have something to do, and get some spotlight time, and get along together, it should be fine.

That's another way that the GM can affect the game's power level - what things are important (or not), which things get glossed over, which modifiers are sacrificed for game speed. Depending on the game, things like information gathering, social skills, sneaking, and combat can become more "important" to a game. In a way, this can balance itself out, as the group makes new characters with this meta-knowledge in mind. The GM going over his expectations before the campaign starts is a better way, though.
Wakshaani
My quick-n-dirty is this:

If something's an auto-pick, "EVeryone takes X. It's so dang good!" then it's probably not balanced.

You need to nerf the stuff that's too good for the price while boosting teh stuff that no one takes, until things equal out.

(SR5's armor situation, for instance, needs fixing. Right now, there's pretty much one armor ... Armored Jacket if you only have the core book, or Sleeping Tiger otherwise. That's not good.)
binarywraith
Honestly, I only adjust at the table.

'x is overpowered, everyone takes x!' is generally an Internet Rules Theory argument more than what my players bring to the table. I only bother to adjust things if someone at the table wants to do a thing and finds it doesn't work mechanically the way it should.

I run with pretty concept-heavy gamers, though, so they're more likely to take what fits their character's look and style than what's mechanically best.
Neraph
QUOTE (binarywraith @ Sep 5 2015, 06:20 AM) *
Honestly, I only adjust at the table.

'x is overpowered, everyone takes x!' is generally an Internet Rules Theory argument more than what my players bring to the table. I only bother to adjust things if someone at the table wants to do a thing and finds it doesn't work mechanically the way it should.

I run with pretty concept-heavy gamers, though, so they're more likely to take what fits their character's look and style than what's mechanically best.

Thank you. This is exactly what I was trying to say also.
Tymeaus Jalynsfein
QUOTE (Wakshaani @ Sep 4 2015, 07:51 PM) *
(SR5's armor situation, for instance, needs fixing. Right now, there's pretty much one armor ... Armored Jacket if you only have the core book, or Sleeping Tiger otherwise. That's not good.)


See, this I do not agree with. Armored Jacket is WAY TOO OBVIOUS (most of the time), and is only good when you want to be obvious. I prefer the various Business Suits (may have to look up Sleeping Tiger, have no idea what that is), of various qualities. They provide pretty decent Protection and provide the ability to blend in, which is King in my opinion. Yes, when you wanna go loud, the Armored Jacket is nice (assuming you cannot get hold of Security or Military grade armors).
Tymeaus Jalynsfein
QUOTE (binarywraith @ Sep 5 2015, 06:20 AM) *
Honestly, I only adjust at the table.

'x is overpowered, everyone takes x!' is generally an Internet Rules Theory argument more than what my players bring to the table. I only bother to adjust things if someone at the table wants to do a thing and finds it doesn't work mechanically the way it should.

I run with pretty concept-heavy gamers, though, so they're more likely to take what fits their character's look and style than what's mechanically best.


Agreed, I think we would fall into this category as well. Take what fits, not what is mechanically superior.
Neraph
QUOTE (Tymeaus Jalynsfein @ Sep 5 2015, 11:15 AM) *
Agreed, I think we would fall into this category as well. Take what fits, not what is mechanically superior.

I still adore my AI private investigator. I mean, he was built solidly enough where he really didn't have much to fear except APDS or AV rounds, but his go-to weapon was the Colt Asp, in all it's 150 nuyen.gif glory. He explicitly only used revolvers and staves. He had I think 3 Colt Asps, each with different ammo loaded, a Guardian for his decent weapon, and then, in a cyber holster in his leg, all Robo-Cop-esque, a Super Warhawk with Ex-Ex ammo. His staff was a telescoping staff with the Powered Stock mod that essentially was an electronic collapser/extender that was in a cyber holster in his arm. It'd deploy and extend into his hand when he needed it.

Good times. Mechanically sub-optimal, but so full of flavor.
Tymeaus Jalynsfein
QUOTE (Neraph @ Sep 5 2015, 11:13 AM) *
I still adore my AI private investigator. I mean, he was built solidly enough where he really didn't have much to fear except APDS or AV rounds, but his go-to weapon was the Colt Asp, in all it's 150 nuyen.gif glory. He explicitly only used revolvers and staves. He had I think 3 Colt Asps, each with different ammo loaded, a Guardian for his decent weapon, and then, in a cyber holster in his leg, all Robo-Cop-esque, a Super Warhawk with Ex-Ex ammo. His staff was a telescoping staff with the Powered Stock mod that essentially was an electronic collapser/extender that was in a cyber holster in his arm. It'd deploy and extend into his hand when he needed it.

Good times. Mechanically sub-optimal, but so full of flavor.


No doubt... I have a few characters like that... I particularly love my Russian Mercenary. He firmly believed that there were no better goods than Russian Goods, and preferred the cheap stuff from the Euro Wars or before. He even managed to put together a fully functional attack helicopter (A Hind from the 70's that he managed to salvage) over the course of the campaign. Used it as a Medical Chopper (He moonlighted for Doc Wagon on high threat responses when he was hard up for cash). Loved his AK's and soviet era vehicles/weaponry, even if they were obsolete/obsolescent.
toturi
One of the truisms about Shadowrun is that the world evolves and reacts to changes. One of the ways it does that is that if everyone is using something, then someone somewhere will come up with something else to buttfuck over those people using that something.

So as good as some gimmick or gadget may be, I find that there is usually someone or someones in the gaming group that doesn't use it and usually is in a position to take advantage of that person or persons who do.

I run with concept gamers, but we adjust our concepts to fit the optimised builds. So if something is that damn good and the concept can accommodate the change, no problem.
binarywraith
I'm curious.

Why?

Does the optimization make your characters more fun than they would be without bothering to switch what they're using because something else has more mechanical advantage?
Neraph
Here's an easy example of optimization:

Case 1
Negotiations 3
Pistols 3

Case 2
Negotiations 2 (Bartering)
Pistols 3 (Semi-auto)

It not only flavors the character more, but spends the BP in a manner that is more efficient, granting you a mechanical advantage.
binarywraith
Sure, but that is moving your build towards a more defined concept. What you specifically called out was changing your concept if it did not suit a more tightly optimized build.

Hence my question.
Glyph
Most players find some sort of compromise between the character they envision, and the character that is actually practical to play under the rule-set being used, as well as other metagame considerations (what kind of campaign the GM is running, how the other PCs would probably react to the character, etc.).

Some players refuse to compromise their concept, and depending on the build, this can make the character less fun to play. It depends on what level of success the player envisions as part of the concept. Someone playing a burned-out mercenary on a downward spiral of alcohol addiction might not care that the character is no great shakes in combat. Someone playing an unaugmented mundane boxer, envisioning someone who succeeds on guts and skill alone, might get frustrated when all of the adepts and cybernetic murder machines keep completely outclassing him. Concept characters are not inherently bad, but some metagame consideration is... polite. A character should be able to work with a team, and have something tangible to offer to the team - the other players want to roleplay, too, so they should have a plausible reason to have the character on the team.

Some players don't have a concept, or have a simple one ("I want to be the guy with guns"), or have being able to attain success in the game as their main goal. Or they might make an optimized build first, then do a background for it. Purely optimized character are not inherently bad, but some metagame consideration is... polite. A character should still fit the type of game the GM is running and not be too drastically over the power level that the group plays at. Also, some GMs don't like it when you need a convoluted mishmash of a backstory to justify your lopsided stats and skills - or when every character you play is essentially a clone of the first one.
Serbitar
Problems with balancing only arise if:


1a) People care about effectiveness

and

1bi) People care about specific given character concepts
1bii) All rules implementation of a given character concept are not as effective as other implementations of other concepts used in the gaming group given their performance in and against the gaming world

or

1c) All rules implementations of all character concepts are not effective given their performance in and against the gaming world

If either of these statements are not true, balance is irrelevant.

If 1a) is not true, nobody cares about balance.
If 1bi) is not true, the player simply chooses an effective character and ignores others
If 1bii) is not true, there are no balancing problems in the system
If 1c) is not true, the character is able to chose one or more characters by effectiveness and disregards the unbalanced ones

Or defined in a positive way:

You have balancing problems when a player cares about effectiveness and character concepts and finds that the rules implementation of his character concept is not effective, compared to other characters in the group or against the gaming world.

or

You have balancing problems if players dont care about character concepts, but all character choices available are not effective against the gaming world.

So, for a discussion about balancing to make sense, you have to imply one of the 2 given scenarios. As there are definitely SOME characters that are effective in shadowrun, the problem can only be 1a + 1bi + 1bii.

I gave some examples for this on the first page.

Effectiveness itself is of course up to definition and has to be integrated over all possible gaming situations and weighted by the probability of the situation turning up at the gaming table.
Blade
I think there are three main "balance" problems in Shadowrun

The first one has to do with players not trying to take advantage of their character's strong points or opportunities. For example, the SR4 hacker complaining that he's useless in combat because he doesn't have a "brick implant" action, while ignoring all the other things he could actually do and all the things he could have done to prevent the combat altogether. It's more or less a false problem, because it's mostly a player issue. Still, it's a sign that players might not be directed well enough.

The second is the "+2 bonus if you know the trick/buy the book". FFBA is the best example: if you've got the book where FFBA is statted and you know about it, all your characters suddenly get better armor. The cost is negligible compared to the improvement, making it an automatic "must have". See also Dikote in SR3. This introduces a balance issue between players who know all this and players who don't (or don't care and just want to play the game). Another case is the implanted adept. If some improvements don't have the same cost in essence and nuyens compared to karma, then an implanted adept can choose the best of each world for each improvement and end up being plain better than a full adept or full implanted created with the same amount of karma/BP. (Sure, an unaugmented mundane will always be inferior to an augmented/awakened character, but the unaugmented mundane isn't really a standard character concept)

The third, and most complex, one is the spotlight balance issue. As stated in the first point, Shadowrun offers many different solutions to problems and it's the player's job to take advantage of their character's strong point. Arguing that the Face isn't as combat effective as the streetsam is absurd, because the Face should be able to bypass combat completely, or to solve a combat situation without dealing any damage. Problems only arise when one character can be more effective than every other, or can be as effective as two others characters combined. For example when the mage is able to cast an Influence spell that will be more effective than anything the Face could do while also being able to cast a Manaball spell that will drop enemies faster than the streetsam would do.
sk8bcn
Can't say I agree to this.

Basically, it's saying:

"Why fix these unbalanced things? My players are wise enough not to abuse".


Balance must be analysed outside players playstyle. It's ok to have an unbalanced system. It can be even done on purpose.

But if you want your system to be balanced, the fact players don't abuse it shouldn't be taken in account at all.

EDIT: Forget that post, it was an answer to a page 1 post rather obsolete...
KnightAries
Some things can be off balanced and some things I already expect (like most players getting FFBA and/or PPP with their main armor) but when start fighting the bad guys, who's to say they don't do the same thing, or does that armor cause encumbrance due to going past Bod X2 (Armor and Encumbrance, p161, SR4A). So looking at the encumbrance I can expect my gun bunnies to do that more than say the supporting roles and chances are they are going to be the ones drawing more gun fire.

IMHO for SR) balance is more subjective than objective as we each have things we find unbalancing [like that damn drone doll that can make a face nasty (but who in their right mind carries a doll and doesn't expect to get laughed at)] but as experienced players who want to have fun we should try and avoid exploiting them (some will still be exploited) and as experienced GM's just know that some players will try to exploit some things and should be familiar enough with the game to counter it [*at a meet* Get rid of the drone; we are hear to talk to you and not some damn robot.]
Serbitar
QUOTE (Blade @ Sep 7 2015, 02:33 PM) *
I think there are three main "balance" problems in Shadowrun

The first one has to do with players not trying to take advantage of their character's strong points or opportunities. For example, the SR4 hacker complaining that he's useless in combat because he doesn't have a "brick implant" action, while ignoring all the other things he could actually do and all the things he could have done to prevent the combat altogether. It's more or less a false problem, because it's mostly a player issue. Still, it's a sign that players might not be directed well enough.

The second is the "+2 bonus if you know the trick/buy the book". FFBA is the best example: if you've got the book where FFBA is statted and you know about it, all your characters suddenly get better armor. The cost is negligible compared to the improvement, making it an automatic "must have". See also Dikote in SR3. This introduces a balance issue between players who know all this and players who don't (or don't care and just want to play the game). Another case is the implanted adept. If some improvements don't have the same cost in essence and nuyens compared to karma, then an implanted adept can choose the best of each world for each improvement and end up being plain better than a full adept or full implanted created with the same amount of karma/BP. (Sure, an unaugmented mundane will always be inferior to an augmented/awakened character, but the unaugmented mundane isn't really a standard character concept)

The third, and most complex, one is the spotlight balance issue. As stated in the first point, Shadowrun offers many different solutions to problems and it's the player's job to take advantage of their character's strong point. Arguing that the Face isn't as combat effective as the streetsam is absurd, because the Face should be able to bypass combat completely, or to solve a combat situation without dealing any damage. Problems only arise when one character can be more effective than every other, or can be as effective as two others characters combined. For example when the mage is able to cast an Influence spell that will be more effective than anything the Face could do while also being able to cast a Manaball spell that will drop enemies faster than the streetsam would do.


Very good points. Thank you.

However, you put the 4th one (the "real" balancing problems) at the end of your 3rd one.
When a player plays to his characters strong points, knows everything and is in his spotlight and still is worse than others, like in the magician example you gave.
Serbitar
QUOTE (sk8bcn @ Sep 7 2015, 02:50 PM) *
Can't say I agree to this.


Blade or mine?

I would agree with your assessment.
Balance implies that players try to abuse it, but cant, because its balanced. That is the pure Gamistic reasoning.

But it ALSO means that in an unbalanced system players who do NOT abuse the system and have some Gamistic (aka balancing and effectivity) AND Simulationistic/Narrativistic (aka wanting a in-game realistic and interesting character) approach, could end up in an unfun situation, because the character concept, equipment, cyberware, whatever they chose because of Simulationistic/Narrativistic motives is completely ineffective.
Tymeaus Jalynsfein
QUOTE (Blade @ Sep 7 2015, 05:33 AM) *
Sure, an unaugmented mundane will always be inferior to an augmented/awakened character, but the unaugmented mundane isn't really a standard character concept.


Beg to differ... I have played several such characters and they are not "Inferior" to their otherwise awakened/augmented counterparts. They are just different, and tend to have different strengths and weaknesses. I have thoroughly enjoyed the ones I have played.
sk8bcn
QUOTE (Serbitar @ Sep 7 2015, 04:40 PM) *
Blade or mine?

I would agree with your assessment.
Balance implies that players try to abuse it, but cant, because its balanced. That is the pure Gamistic reasoning.

But it ALSO means that in an unbalanced system players who do NOT abuse the system and have some Gamistic (aka balancing and effectivity) AND Simulationistic/Narrativistic (aka wanting a in-game realistic and interesting character) approach, could end up in an unfun situation, because the character concept, equipment, cyberware, whatever they chose because of Simulationistic/Narrativistic motives is completely ineffective.



Neither, it was a mistake byme and it was about a page 1 post.

I mostly agree with what was written by both of you.


In the case of Shadowrun, I do think that balance should be a goal for devs. Why? Mostly because I feel that the game is designed for rule-lover who likes to have a pro-feeling. It's a game where you sell a core rule book, heavy on mechanics, plus a book for Equipment, hackers, spellcasters and so on.

Who you go this far to the options you give, you'll have to aim to have balanced options.


I do think that the guy playing an unaugmented mundane can have fun. He knows what he's doing.

The guy who plays a samourai and discovers that the augmented adept is simply better than him per design (meaning that he couldn't have created the character better) is just a flaw in terms of balance.
Serbitar
QUOTE (Tymeaus Jalynsfein @ Sep 7 2015, 05:04 PM) *
Beg to differ... I have played several such characters and they are not "Inferior" to their otherwise awakened/augmented counterparts. They are just different, and tend to have different strengths and weaknesses. I have thoroughly enjoyed the ones I have played.


Now I am interested. Could you give an example of strengths?
Of course you can have fun with any character, but I am not so sure weather any mundane and unaugmented character could have any strength compared to an appropriately similar magical/augmented character, i.e. is inferior in every way.
Blade
From what I've seen, except for some extreme cases (spending everything on drones or trained animals), an unaugmented/unawakened character can get better stats by spending some points in magic and/or ware rather than skill/stats. Most physical attributes are cheaper to buy with ware than naturally, and if you're using cultured bioware, the only differences that can matter will be an essence score lower than the norm that can be seen in the astral plane without knowing why most of the time and a higher cost to upgrade later on.
Tymeaus Jalynsfein
QUOTE (Serbitar @ Sep 7 2015, 09:27 AM) *
Now I am interested. Could you give an example of strengths?
Of course you can have fun with any character, but I am not so sure weather any mundane and unaugmented character could have any strength compared to an appropriately similar magical/augmented character, i.e. is inferior in every way.


Biggest one is Versatility... With 58 Skills, most 8+ with about 10 at 10+, there is no skill the character cannot attempt without some degree of success. Stat wise, he is above average, but not what I would call exceptional: Body 4, Agility 4, Reaction 8, Strength 3, Charisma 3, Intuition 4, Logic 4, Willpower 4.

Another is Anonymity. The character does not have to ever worry about pinging a Cyber scanner or being assensed as Magical, nor does he every worry about Background count or wards (which are ever-present in our campaigns).

He almost always has the perfect tool for the job, because if he cannot find it, he can make it himself, given a bit of time. And he has the skills to use it to boot.

He has a ton of contacts that can get him almost anything under the sun (but especially he prefers the Soviet Era hardware that he loves so much, which is lying around almost everywhere in Europe and Asia.

He goes first in combat (Adrenalin Surge Quality), regardless of Initiative, unless someone is spending Edge to do so - Highly useful, and something not every street sam or Mage does. And he is pretty good at not getting hit in ranged combat (Reaction 8 does that for you - Thanks to the Lightning Reflexes Quality)

Can a specialized Character in a couple of skills outshine him in those skills (or a Mage with a fairly unlimited Spell Budget)? Sure, but I have yet to see a character who can outshine him in ALL the areas he is capable of covering, and few can come close to the breadth and depth of the skill set he brings to the table.

Can he run solo? Probably not for anything high level, but he can fill in all the gaps left by those few required specialist characters when going into Military/Corporate High Threat Areas, and he always has the coolest get away plans when needed. smile.gif
Serbitar
Now I am irritated. What prevents me from creating an awakened or cybered character with the same resources that is not superior in every single skill and ability?
Your character would be inferior in any way. Exactly what you begged to differ.

I dont see the point you try to make.
Tymeaus Jalynsfein
QUOTE (Serbitar @ Sep 7 2015, 12:32 PM) *
Now I am irritated. What prevents me from creating an awakened or cybered character with the same resources that is not superior in every single skill and ability?
Your character would be inferior in any way. Exactly what you begged to differ.

I dont see the point you try to make.


Resources would not allow you to build the same character as an Awakened or Cybered character. Simple as that. And if the Character ever decides that he needs the lift that Cyber/Bio brings, he can pursue it unhindered. Also something your Cyber/Awakened cannot do unhindered. smile.gif

Maybe because you play differently than I do? Not my concern, really. smile.gif
Happy Gaming to you.
Neraph
QUOTE (Serbitar @ Sep 7 2015, 02:32 PM) *
Now I am irritated. What prevents me from creating an awakened or cybered character with the same resources that is not superior in every single skill and ability?
Your character would be inferior in any way. Exactly what you begged to differ.

I dont see the point you try to make.

Um... You can maybe equal or exceed his stats and maybe a few of his skills with augmentation/cyber/bio, but you can't do every single thing the above character can. Just because you can shoot a pistol better than him doesn't mean you can use a shotgun, or sneak, or talk your way out of a random search, or get through that cyberscanner, or walk through that mana void, or...

And that's the point.
Glyph
The difference between an unaugmented and an augmented character is about 40 BP. That can buy about 10 points of skills, which is nice, but the augmented guy with +4 Agility, +4 Reaction, and +2 Strength (for example) can often default to a better dice pool, and that's just Attributes - SR4 also has a lot of dice pool boosters such as synthcardium, tailored pheromones, and reflex recorders.

Unaugmented mundanes are viable, sure, but they are either settling for a lower power level for a roleplaying reason, or intentionally setting the game's "difficulty level" higher for yourself. I would warn a newer player that it is a concept that is harder to pull off than others - you are playing Togusa in Ghost in the Shell, or Deckard in Blade Runner.
Neraph
I know, and I'd never play an un-augmented character, but the breadth of ability that they have is respectable, even if the lack of raw power or IP is problematic.
Serbitar
QUOTE (Tymeaus Jalynsfein @ Sep 7 2015, 10:58 PM) *
Resources would not allow you to build the same character as an Awakened or Cybered character. Simple as that. And if the Character ever decides that he needs the lift that Cyber/Bio brings, he can pursue it unhindered. Also something your Cyber/Awakened cannot do unhindered. smile.gif

Maybe because you play differently than I do? Not my concern, really. smile.gif
Happy Gaming to you.


I am not questioning your gaming style, just the statement that an unaugmented mundance character is not inferior in every way (except, obviously, existence of cyber/magic when detecting) compared to an awakened/cybered one. With the amount of karma needed for the skills this character has you can easily build a super adept that is superior in every single way (with masking even when being assensed). A cybered concept will be superior in every way, too (at the moment this character has nothing to do with his money, except buy expensive vehicles or so). The further a game progresses, the more true the statement is, as I think there may be some corner cases during character creation where a special mundane character has one or two advantages, which will vanish after the first couple of runs.

Actually this is so obvious I am asking myself why you made the statement. Shadowrun is built in a way that augmented and awakened are much better. The point is even not very relevant for the discussion at hand, but I am wondering why people have to argue even about most basic and obvious things.

Again, this is not about fun, but Mathematics. I am not questioning that you, me or anybody else can have fun with 'non effective' character concepts. But there is no danger in stating that they are actually 'non effective' compared to other concepts.
Blade
@Tymeaus: I think what Serbitar is arguing (which I also am) is that if you:
- Take your character at chargen
- Reduce his agility by 2 points
- With the BP/karma you get from this, buy nuyens for a rating 2 Muscle Toner in alphaware (or is that cultured bioware? it's been too long without playing)

You'll get a character with the exact same stats, but you'll have BP/karma left to improve him further. The only differences will be that:
- Your character will be known to have muscle toner if undergoing an extensive physical examination (IIRC, cultured bioware isn't detected easily)
- Your character will have a lower essence, which only impacts magical healing, astral signature and a few minor stuff like essence drain problems. The astral signature might be the most problematic, but it takes a lot of hits to be able to tell that the essence loss is due to cultured bioware.
- You need more nuyens at chargen. Unless your concept requires you to max out nuyens at chargen and spend them in something else than ware, this shouldn't be a problem
- Raising your AGI post-chargen will cost your more, since the lower hanging fruit has already been taken. But I don't see the point of waiting to get improvements you could get now.

I am not saying that your character is not fun to play. I am not saying that it's not an interesting concept. I am just saying that mathematically speaking you can build a character who has better stats for very minor drawbacks.
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