Game balance

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Game balance is a concept in game design. The core underlying idea is that the game must be "fair", both between the players and between the players and the game. Its applicability to larp depends on the specifics of any particular game.

There are at least two concepts of "game balance" applicable to larps: mechanical balance and narrative balance:

  • Mechanical balance derives from tabletop roleplaying games, and is concerned with the fairness of mechanics, and particularly with character types and progression. The core idea is that characters should be of roughly equal power regardless of type. While more experienced characters can be superior to less experienced ones, there should not be character builds or advancement choices which are obviously optimal or superior to others. This concept is particularly important in Player vs. Player (PvP) larps. In larps which offer mechanics-based Player vs. Environment (PvE) play, whether the characters can succeed at the mechanical challenges posed (crudely, whether the larp is "winnable") is also a consideration.
  • Narrative balance is concerned with whether the characters have equal involvement, or an equal chance to participate, in the narratives of the larp. In one-shot theatre-style larps, this is usually a question of whether each character has enough plot or enough plot opportunities, though it can also include ideas about whether each character has a fair chance to achieve their goals. In campaign larps or those where players create their own characters, it includes questions of whether the game caters more to some types of characters while systematically excluding others (for example, in a live-combat larp, whether it caters primarily to combatants and leaves non-combatants with not enough to do).

Game balance is often considered to be a Gamist concept.

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