Gather round because it is a good time for a chat. The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is hitting maturity (read: growing up, not old) and it is time to have some honest talks about the birds, the bees… and the behemoths of balance.
For the next few days we are going to look at the ultimate field of balance in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Your Table.
Yep. It is on you kids… not the designers… not the developers… not the 3pp companies.
So let’s get into it. Today’s topic is about time and resource management…
Understanding Balance at the Table: The Workday
Establishing your own personal style with your campaign’s “Workday” – the amount of power and resources the Player Characters can expend before resting and restocking – is essential to understanding how game balance is going to work in your game. Looking at types of Workdays we see some patterns:
Workday – Sporadic Outbursts:
- (Workday = Maybe this week? = <1 encounter a day)
- Combats and mechanics relevant encounters take a backseat here to extended roleplaying and storypoints and as such class balance becomes less relevant.
- Combats can be all-out resource burning affairs and strengths can be erratically situational.
- Favors: Story focused characters and situational specialists. Limitations on classes become less significant relative to their ability to have a single moment of decisive effectiveness.
Workday – Targeted Strikes/Hit and Run:
- (Workday = Today’s Primary Target = 1 conflict a day or session)
- Enemies are confronted in a specific, targeted manner often with deliberate tactics and clear lines.
- These battles tend to be resource intensive and favor “burst” play styles.
- Combats can afford to tap out all major and high-end powers.
- Favors: Casters and power users.
Workday – Dungeon Crawls – Locked Doors/Trapped Evils:
- (Workday = Controlled Conflicts = 3 to 5 conflicts a session with some possible rest)
- Enemies are encountered as the party discovers them and can take some breaks.
- A default Workday of fantasy dungeon crawls RPGs.
- Combats vary but some resource management is required by casters and power users.
- Favors: Non-caster classes rise in significance and become more dominant in proportion to limitation on resting.
Workday – Dungeon Crawls or Invasions – Hostile Invasion/Time Table:
- (Workday = Forced Conflicts = 3 or more conflicts a session with little to no possible rest)
- Enemies are encountered as the party engages them and must act to ensure success and safety.
- A default of Horror genre and survival games.
- Combats vary but resource management is always essential by casters and power users.
- Favors: Non-caster classes become dominant in proportion to limitation on resting.
Workday – Varied Realism – Variable Encounter Design:
- (Workday = Varied by GMs in an attempt to create an increased verisimilitude)
- Enemies are encountered as the GM sees fit to ensure a feeling of reality with little transparency to PCs who don’t remain vigilant.
- A default of modern genre RPGs.
- More challenging to GM consistently.
- Combats vary but some resource management is required by casters and power users due to the unexpected.
- Favors: None if run consistently. Some classes shine in response to each varied length of Workday.
What the Workday Means to You
The decision of what kind of Workday you will have will drastically influence the function of balance at your table. If you have a group made up largely daily power users (like vancian-spellcasters or psionics) you are going to need to understand the stress that will be applied to them as the Workday lengthens. This can be very fun and entertaining forcing either strict discipline, rotating turns at supernatural might or feast and famine battles of epic sorcery followed by gritty fisticuffs with nary a cantrip to ease the way.
Similarly, a majority of sword and board fighters and other front-liners is going to excel in a sustained conflicts in controlled environs and may get frustrated with once a week conflicts with a flying dragon or teleporting sorceress.
It is imperative to balancing your game, strict Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook rules game to staggeringly liberal third party free-for-alls, to understand and consciously choose your Workdays. Be aware of them and consider how changes over the evolution of your story with impact the Workday and how that in turn will re-balance PCs.
The General Rules to Remember
- Longer Workdays/High Encounters favor warriors, cooldown users, and at-will powers
- Shorter Workdays/Few Encounters favor casters, “nova” characters, and resource intensive characters
- Varied Workdays/Varied Encounters favor few obvious choices but lead to higher stress and tension levels for some players
Have any favorite Workday choices or stories? Feel free to share in the comments.
Come back next time when we take a look at: Complexity.