Dungeons and Dragons Wiki:Article Balance

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Campaign balance is a fine art, as it is extremely difficult to classify exactly. What is balanced in one campaign might not be balanced in another, by virtue of what classes, feats, and other such options are available to characters. Balance goes both ways, and it's important to realize that material that is perfectly reasonable in some games may be ridiculously overpowered or so weak as to not be worth writing down in others. A primary goal of this wiki is to help our users more easily find homebrew material that fits well within the balance their campaign already uses.

To that end, most of our articles will list a general category of balance depending on the sorts of power levels that the game supports. It should be said right off that no balance category is better or worse than any other, the only right one is the one that works for your game and your playstyle. Each category contains a number of classes, prestige classes, and character options published by Wizards of the Coast to provide further examples of material within it. The options listed here aren't intended to be used to win or lose any contests, but just to give you a good pool of work to compare our homebrew against.

Breaking things down in this way also means that an option is only overpowered or underpowered when compared with the other available options. There is material within published works that is going to be overpowered for some campaigns, just as there is material that is going to be weak in some campaigns. Sometimes that is even the same material viewed from two different games. These balance categories are an attempt to place homebrew works on this site in a greater context. If an article is listed as having a particular article balance, we believe it is best matched with other material in that category and thus appropriate for inclusion in a campaign that already primarily includes the options indicated at that level. It may overperform at some levels, it may underperform at others, and it may change based on campaign considerations regarding enemy and equipment distributions, but it shouldn't overshadow or be useless compared to other material overall.

So please look over our article balance categories, and see if you can pick out which one your games tend to use. We hope that you find material here for your style of play that helps expand the fun of your games, without making you worry about unbalancing it.

I never had a problem before...
You may never have had a character in your game consistently overshadowing everyone else. Or a character feel completely useless because they just don't contribute like the rest of the party without that artifact sword you gave them. It's possible that you've never banned a spell because it was too strong, or boosted a feat that you thought was too weak. Perhaps you've never had a player use a strong class ability in a way that seemed like abuse, or you've never seen a group stack some abilities and rules together to "win" the game without actually playing it anymore. If that's the case, you probably don't need to worry about this and can just use whatever you like from the wiki. And you should feel very lucky.

For the rest of us who have had some of these problems, the article balance categories should help to minimize, or at least point out, the potential pitfalls. Even if you've never worried about it before and don't particularly feel like worrying about it now, we hope that these levels make it easier for your to identify and resolve the actual root of any instances where you feel that a player is over or under performing.

3rd and 3.5th Edition[edit]

Alternate Balance Category Names
At one point these article balance categories were named for classes. Low used to be called Monk, Moderate was Fighter, High was Rogue, and Very High was Wizard. These terms are no longer used in general, but may still be present in some older comments.

There are many things that could be used to measure the strength of a character. On this wiki we have elected to measure classes by their strength against their enemies and challenges, and character options and additions by what they add to a character against his enemies and challenges. These comparisons are what led to our balance categories.

It is important to note that, with respect to classes, these balance levels are not intended to represent the pinnacle of a class, nor its minimum. They are intended to represent an average member of the class, one who avoids trap options and builds a competent member of their class. You can certainly play some of these classes at a lower balance level by intentionally choosing weaker options, and you can occasionally play some of these classes at a higher level by using tricks and optimizing. Attempting to categorize every build of every character is simply impossible, and we go with a more general approach here.

Low Balance[edit]

This level contains material that is widely considered to be the weakest. Classes in this balance range generally have extensive multiple attribute dependency and need to boost several attributes to remain competitive with other classes. They have a slower progression in areas they are supposed to remain competent in when compared to other classes. They have class abilities that counter-synergize with their intended role in the party. They gain significant or important class features many levels after other classes and monsters have gained them, when the feature is less relevant. Sometimes these class features come with extensive restrictions that keep them from becoming a more useful ability.

Low article balance material, therefore, is material that does not synergize well with other abilities, offers abilities that are well below those seen by higher powered classes and most monsters for the level they are granted at, progresses substantially more slowly than other classes and the monsters, or offers a small or extremely circumstantial bonus. It also contains most material that is almost entirely fluff, only granting extremely minor benefits.

Material in this category will remain competitive with moderate level material up to level 8. It should remain competitive with high and very high balance material, as well as appropriate CR monsters, up to level 4. Additional levels may be possible with extensive optimization, but after these points the higher category content will likely begin to pull away.

Note: This is the lowest level of balance we support on this wiki, as anything with less power basically doesn't play using the same rules. We do not allow any level of balance lower than Low on the wiki, and anything weaker will be deleted per wiki policy.

Classes and prestige classes, published by Wizards of the Coast, that can be considered around the low level of balance include:

Some feats, published by Wizards of the Coast, that can be considered around the low level of balance include:

For a complete list of low balance articles on this wiki, click here.

Moderate Balance[edit]

Classes in this balance category generally have sufficient numerical progression in important areas to maintain their intended role, but often lack significant class features. They may gain sufficient feats to keep abilities fresh and its tricks CR appropriate for a time, but they eventually begin to fall behind monsters who simply acquire new abilities faster than they can. This level is often restricted in reach as well, often being melee only or gaining no significant ranged abilities.

Material in this category will remain competitive with high level material and appropriate CR monsters up to around level 8, though it will be passed up by very high level material earlier than that. Additional competitive levels may be possible with extensive optimization, but after these points the higher category content will likely begin to pull away. Examples of such optimization would include the "chain tripper" fighter. A "spirited charger" fighter, whose primary goal in life is to wield a lance and use Spirited Charge, with a very careful magic item selection is fairly competitive, if boring, against monsters at all levels of the game and more likely playing at a high balance level than a moderate one.

It is worth noting that many higher CR monsters and balance material can still be used in games at this level simply by not making use of all of their abilities. Ranged monsters or spell casters that close to melee to utilize their shiny weapons and allow the melee based fighters to close and strike them are examples. Similarly, "blaster" wizards who favor direct damage spells and "heal bot" clerics are likely playing at this balance range as well.

Other classes and prestige classes, published by Wizards of the Coast, that can be considered around the moderate level of balance include:

Some feats, published by Wizards of the Coast, that can be considered around the moderate level of balance include:

For a complete list of moderate balance articles on this wiki, click here.

High Balance[edit]

Classes in this category have sufficient numerical progression in the areas they are intended to cover, but also gain significant class features which allow them to compete on a roughly even footing with enemies of most CRs. Most have some utility abilities which allow them to adjust or influence the narrative of the game, and these abilities do not come at the cost of their combat ability. Material at the high level is therefore material that is competent against all CRs, grants significant and timely abilities to deal with equal CR creatures, offers significant and level-appropriate utility, or scales to match creatures in some important aspect. This is not to say that they have abilities against every potential threat, however, and they will likely excel at certain types of encounters and do poorly at others.

Material in this category can remain competitive against appropriate CR monsters over all levels of the game, and can generally be optimized for play with unoptimized very high content. It should be said that high level material only really stays high level material if it is played to its strengths, and classes at this level that select lower powered abilities or fail to make efficient use of their abilities can quite easily perform at a lower balance level. A single weapon rogue who relies on flanking for their sneak attack is likely playing the game at a moderate level, for example. On the other hand, a two-handed flask throwing rogue who gets sneak attack all of the time without flanking and makes substantial use of Use Magic Device while carrying a large assortment of wands is likely playing the game near the bottom of the very high level.

This balance category can also be called the Same Game Test level, as most classes correspond to an approximately 50/50 matchup on that balance guideline. Note that this balance guideline is depreciated, however, due to repeated and unsolved arguments regarding the role of equipment and build specificity.

Other classes and prestige classes, published by Wizards of the Coast, that can be considered around the High level of balance include:

Some feats, published by Wizards of the Coast, that can be considered around the High level of balance include:

For a complete list of high balance articles on this wiki, click here.

Very High Balance[edit]

The highest level of balance on the wiki is reserved for classes with substantial potential. These classes continually gain abilities that allow them to deal with equal CR opposition like classes in the high category, but they gain a wider selection of them than other classes do. They can therefore deal with a larger range of challenges than other classes, or deal with some threats super hard. Many classes in this range select which abilities they take with them on any given day, tailoring their abilities to their opposition and often winning quickly and easily as a result. They also have substantial plot affecting abilities, allowing them greater control over the story than characters at lower balance levels. Very high balance material is therefore characterized by its strength and versatility, and these combine to make material that often contributes substantially to, if not outright determines, the flow of an encounter.

It is important to note that classes from this level can be played at a much lower level, such as having a wizard prepare spells like Magic Missile and Lightning Bolt. These are a perfectly appropriate selection of spells, but the direct damage spells do not keep up with equal CR opposition, and preparing them is considered to be a moderate tactic. Players playing in this way are doing so at a moderate balance level, which is why you can get away with wizards in Moderate level games without continuous overshadowing. Material listed in this category assumes that players will be using tactical spells like Color Spray and Stinking Cloud and will otherwise make optimal spell and tactical decisions that often end or decide the battle with one spell, if not avoid it entirely. This is an important distinction to make, as spell selection and play style will impact which material you allow or disallow.

Material at this balance level will generally pull away from lower level material as early as mid levels simply because they have more answers to challenges. Optimized Very High level material may lead to characters who always have an answer for any equal CR challenge, and who face challenges above their CR as a result. Characters and creatures who have a near 0 chance of loss, like The Wish, The Word, or Pun-Pun are not included in this category, having surpassed it.

Note that the very high level should not be considered "overpowered" or a "badge of shame", as some have referred to it in the past. It is, like the rest of our balance levels, a perfectly acceptable balance to use, leads to games that are playable (if different from their lower balance brethren), and is used for many items on this wiki.

Classes and prestige classes, published by Wizards of the Coast, that can be considered around the very high level of balance include:

Some feats, published by Wizards of the Coast, that can be considered around the very high level of balance include:

  • Divine Metamagic[9]
  • Dragon Wild Shape[10]

For a complete list of very high balance articles on this wiki, click here.

Unquantifiable Balance[edit]

There are a few rare articles on the wiki whose balance is completely unquantifiable. Most of these articles are those that give you the option to make an additional selection, and are thus dependent on the balance of the selection itself. Leadership falls into this category because of its cohort. Many of these articles are generally reserved for NPC stuff that PCs won't take because it does not have an effect on any in-game statistic or provide any new options. The best example of such an article is Memories of Death, whose effect on gameplay cannot be quantified by any means because it's so entirely volatile. Some examples from the SRD include the Leadership feat, the Planar Binding line of spells, and the Gate spell.

For a complete list of articles on this wiki that are unquantifiable, click here.

4th Edition and 4E Essentials Balance Points[edit]

We do not have balance points for this edition of Dungeons and Dragons.

This is not because there's not a range of balance in this version of Dungeons and Dragons, however. There's a rather wide range of balance levels actually, stretching from poorly selected class builds that don't actually have powers for their primary stats up to yogi-hat rangers who literally can't die and orbizards who never let the enemy act. The problem is that the extremely large amount of errata in 4th edition in conjunction with the popularity of the online character builder makes these builds tenuous at best, and the actual power level of the game itself is subject to radical change. Even if we had enough examples to specify what the different balance levels looked like at any given time, we wouldn't be reasonably sure that any example would belong in the same level a few months later or that the level itself would even mean the same thing.

As a result, we have very-high power classes like the Bane Guard alongside more standard classes like the Song Weaver and Black Lion with no way to indicate which is the higher-powered option at first glance. Each author tends to select a similar balance point, however, even if it is different from that of other authors. Because of that, homebrew in this section by different authors with different goals may not be appropriate for different players at the same table, but homebrew by the same author as other material currently in use should be just fine. We strongly recommend that you examine each piece of 4e homebrew with an eye towards what other players in your game will be doing before allowing it into your campaign. And remember, just because it's over or underpowered for your table doesn't mean it's so for the game itself.

References[edit]

  1. Miniatures Handbook
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Complete Warrior
  3. 3.0 3.1 Complete Adventurer
  4. 4.0 4.1 Complete Arcane
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Tome of Battle
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Player's Handbook II
  7. Eberron Campaign Setting
  8. Heroes of Horror
  9. Complete Divine
  10. Draconomicon