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Game Balance in Amtgard
[01/05/2003] [jewishjedi]

One of the most basic ways to balance out a game is the paper, rock, scissors method. In this method, there are three options that each defeat one of the others and is defeated by the third option. Amtgard is loosely set up in this fashion. We can group the classes into three categories: Magic (wizards, healers, druids, and bards), Tanks (warriors, paladins, anti-paladins, and barbarians), and Lights (monks, assassins, scouts, and archers). Each of these groups can defeat another with little effort, and each can be beaten by a third with little effort. Let’s examine what each group is comprised of and what they offer.

Magic classes are all very powerful on offense. Whether it's wizards with spell balls, druids with call lightning, healers with stun, or bards with yield, all four of them can deal death at range with very little in terms of skill. Because of this, the Magic grouping is especially good at getting rid of the Tank group. The only problem with the Magic group is that they usually don't have much in the way of defense. In most circumstances, a few hits sends them back to Nirvana, counting to three hundred.

Tanks are the next group to be examined. They are defined by their ability to outlast most other classes. They do this with the warrior’s six points of armor, the barbarian’s fight after death, and the paladin's and anti-paladin’s armor and wizard immunities. Due to this group’s excess ability to take and deal out damage, they usually fare very well against the low-armored Lights. However, as they lack long range attacks and are open to spells, the Magic grouping deals with the Tanks efficiently.

The third piece of this puzzle is the Lights. They are defined by their ability to escape bad situations. Archers attack from range, assassins teleport away, monks use sanctuary and immunities to keep them going, and scouts' versatility prepares them for most situations. Since they can attack from range or get out of tricky areas, the Light classes are well suited for dealing with the Magic group. Archers kill mages from outside even extended spells, assassins sneak in and back-stab ‘em, scouts carry a few enchantments to get immunities, and monks just have the immunities. However, once the Tanks get to them, the Light classes usually go down quick as they can’t cut through the Tanks fast enough.

So now we’re back to the plain Paper, Rock, Scissors that we started with. Why pick one group over another as each is pretty even? Well, there's still more to it than this, since the extra abilities of each of the classes give them an edge.

The Magic group can heal their teammates, they can fix armor, and they can enchant people into more than just mere fighters. This may make them seem too powerful, but limiting them to only one in ten per team keeps them balanced. If my team’s one healer goes down, we’re hurting a lot for five whole minutes. It might even be enough to take the rest of the team back to Nirvana.

The Tanks each have a limited amount of range attacks to them (javelins, rocks, and throwing axes to name a few). These can be used to disrupt the Magic groups spells. Should this boost up the Tanks to the top spot? I doubt it. To get the all out of these classes, a player needs to invest time and money into making armor. If they do not do this, then they won’t outlast anyone.

The Light classes all have an amount of melee capability. Should this give them the best spot? Not likely. To use all the abilities of these classes, the player begins to get encumbered with lots of extra junk (belts full of daggers, flowers of arrows, and oddly wielded shields). They may also have a lynch pin to the class that can be broken (an archer whose bow is broken has lost a LOT of power).

As can be seen, all of the class groups in Amtgard are fairly well-balanced when we look at the big picture. They each have their strong points and their weak points. They each have a ‘special’ group to get rid of, and they each have their lynch pin group that deals with them. Making sure to use each group in your team is the key to keeping the game balanced.

Some ideas in this discussion are based off an article written by Sirlin, a video game designer. Check out to read his article on game balance in computer games.

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