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Randall, I missed this earlier, so let me be clear:

OD&D is the most combat-balanced edition in existance, at least from levels 1 to about 5 or so.

Everyone starts off with a base attack of +0. They might get a -1 or +1 from stats, but likely won't. Everyone has more-or-less the same number of hitpoints, but that's likely not to matter when you get stung by a 1st-level Giant Bee and need to Save vs Poison or die. All weapons do 1d6.

OD&D characters in that level range are virtually identical in combat stats and hence almost perfectly balanced.

I guess I should have clarified my opinion to begin with; sorry about that.

Aaron E. Steele

Game balance as put forth by 3.5 and 4e adherants is of little interest to me.

But if it makes the games they play more fun for them, i'm all for them instituting it.

I just think game balance is really only applicable to competitive games.


100% agreement on game balance lasting only until the first die is rolled. I've always said that RPGs can't be meaningfully balanced at the rules level. Only an individual campaign can be balanced — and only if the GM and players so desire it.


Balance is a myth that is destroyed the minute the first dice is rolled. It exists in rule systems so that people new to the game have a set of benchmarks so they know what should be an easy, average or difficult encounter for a statistically average group of players and PCs – but I can guarantee that every single gaming group is far from statistically average 😀

So an "average" encounter in 4e worth 500XP at first level might be a minor speed bump to some highly charged groups whereas it's 90 minutes spent scratching their heads for another group. The key is to find a point that suits how YOU play (whatever the system) and use what works for you, and knowing how far you can go either way.

For example, my own group is happiest when there's just one or two encounters in a game session surrounded by lots of sugary role-playing action. They're no slouches when it comes to combat either meaning those two encounters usually take much less than an hour in total (more often closer to 30 minutes) to run through. We play pretty loose so I'll pick the monsters that fit the scenario with only half an eye on the XP total. Sometimes, they've learned it's best to run away 😀

With another group I sometimes play with they're happiest when there's as many back-to-back hackfest encounters as possible in a single night, but play is slower so 4-5 encounters is the norm, and we try to keep within Encounter construction and XP guidelines all the way.

Diff'rent groups, but it's all fun. "Game balance" is just a starting point. Find your own ground.


Rogercarbol said: "If a character isn't balanced in combat, he's dead."

Players of less combat effective D&D character classes managed to keep their characters alive long enough to enjoy playing them for over 30 years before the appearance of the "everyone is equally effective in combat" fourth edition — even in combat-heavy campaigns. I think this is strong evidence that your claim isn't always true.


If a character isn't balanced in diplomacy or crafting or riding a horse, the result is a minor setback or period of boredom.

If a character isn't balanced in combat, he's dead.