Although I'd like to point out that again, role playing is about playing the role of the character. There is a significant difference between the way a wizard and a rogue have lived their lives or are living them.
They are both unique individuals with unique stories and backgrounds. The whole story of how they got to be what they are and who they are is a major part of the role playing.
If we look at these two characters already we have potential for interesting stories before any dice/skills/spells are needed for anything. Where are they coming from, how do they get together? I could have multiple play sessions on just those things alone before any of the other stuff even mattered.
Role playing shouldn't just be about the dice rolling things.Alright, well a couple of things.
Why doesn't the GM control the magic in someway? (controlling the game is what the GM is there for)
- The wizard could be hunted by someone that is looking/sensing magic use?
- The wizard could be cursed in some way to prevent the use of the magic. It's a world full of strange magic there's not reason a GM can't simple add a possibility of failure or horrible crazy results to the magic use? It's all up to your imagination.
- Magic can be protected against - I'm pretty sure there are even spells/wards in the books to prevent magic from being used in many circumstances
- GM's are well within their rights to restrict the types of spells that a Wizard has access to. I'm pretty sure there's a whole slew of spells out there that the GM can force the player to work with.
- Extreme alternative - why did the GM let a thief and a wizard be in the same party in the first place? If the GM knows there's an imbalance here then it was up to them to prevent it from happening int eh first place. Options: make an all non-magic game, make an all magic game, let the non-magic users be a higher level (and vice verse), etc..
GM's are supposed to read over and approve of characters before play begins. It's not just meant to be a tool to make sure that players don't cheat - it's also how a GM can guide players to creating characters that "suit" the campaign/adventure that your creating.
I'm not saying it isn't broken or flawed in some way but that doesn't mean it can't be "worked with," to make sure that it's more playable by everyone. I just gave a handful of examples off the top of my head - given some time I'm sure you can create some really interesting stories to go with those points and create entirely new ones to go along with it.Well, I'm going to have to pass on most of this.
But again.. most of this can again be controlled by the GM. It is the GM's job to control the world at large. Same issues as above with same types of solutions and creative play.
If you follow the above examples that I gave you can easily make it fun for everyone. Restrict a few things with creative story telling and allow others. Always keep in mind ways to keep players in the game and active as you go. It's really not that hard.
I guarantee you can engage that rogue easily enough and make things fun for the wizard too.
Plopping down a map and whipping out your miniatures and rolling dice is only a small portion of what table top gaming is all about.
Admittedly my method isn't for everyone and some people just like to roll dice... I prefer the story of adventure over that.
I have to agree with Chris; this right here is some very terrible advice, in my opinion, as a GM.
The first part doesn't make any sense to me. Backstory for characters, when regarding mechical components of a character, is moot; a Wizard can be just as much a treasure hunting, backstabbing, sneaky little guy who goes around conning people. As Chris pointed out, with their spell selection, they actually fill this niche better than the Rogue.
This advice, however, isn't 'how to challenge your players'. It's called 'dicking your player over because you don't know how to challenge their abilities'.
Arguing that storyline creates balance for mechanics is a hugely flawed premise. "What if they were looking for a magic user?" Yeah, what if? Doesn't change the fact the Rogue is still inferior to the Wizard at his job. Unless you're somehow trying to ride 'they're looking for a magic user' throughout the whole game, and find every way you can to stop the Wizard doing the Rogue's shtick.
Your DM could have cursed you and stopped you using your magic. Great idea. Now the d4 HD, unable to hit anything in combat Wizard can sit in the back and do nothing in your game because you arbitarily decided he's not allowed to do anything because his class is too good at what he does. "This class is good at something, therefore to challenge him, I'll make him on par with the Commoner NPC class" is not challenging people. It's dicking someone over to the Nth degree, like letting someone play a Rogue who focuses on sneak attack without telling them the majority of the game is based around hunting the undead.
Magic can be protected against, but magic is also great balancer (lol) in D&D. Mundane classes get screwed over by magic defenses just as much magic classes; no magic means no magic weapons, no healing, no magic items or scrolls to boost them. And in D&D, protecting against magic is much harder to pull off logically than protecting against a Rogue. A good lock on a chest costs you about 300GP. The ability to stop a Wizard floating into your place invisible, touching your chest and just Tenser's floating disk all your possessions out the window? Far, far more expensive, and generally assumes you have some knowledge of this stuff. "It takes a Wizard to beat a Wizard" is already what most people see in D&D.
GMs can restrict their spell selections, but then again, the GM can do a lot of things. What if I -want- to play my Wizard asa a Rogue? There's enough classes which let you do that. In example for the Rogue once again, I 'can' fix the game if the Rogue is doing too well with sneak attack by just saying 'No, sneak attack doesn't work anymore'. But that's not a challenge. Challenge is testing the tools in your players toolbox. Challenge isn't 'Here's a nail to hammer, and I'm taking away your hammer. Find a way to use a wrench on it'.
And you let a Wizard play alongside a Rogue because they're built on the assumption that every class brings something unique to the table - The Fighter is tough and strong, and can protect people while being the hero. The Wizard can debuff, he can buff the party, he can prevent the enemy doing what they want. The Rogue can sneak around, pick locks and stab people in the back. Sure, you can play an no-magic game, but as I mentioned earier, as Katataban was mentioning earlier, this is -not- the default assumption of the game. The game assumes
- amount of GP per level, it assumes what can challenge your party at what level and how many combats you should be able to take in a day. No magic means no healing for the party, non-magic means no magic gear for everyone in the party, magic means no magic to help stop the enemy or buff the party. Mundane needs magic far more than magic needs mundane in D&D. Also, starting off mundane as higher doesn't help; remember, XP scales to level, so the lower level characters earn more XP than the higher level characters until they're caught up. Playing with a vast gap just means lower level characters level faster, and are more likely to get one-shotted, meaning they're going to avoid every combat they can until they're a level.
Pretty much every suggestion here, I've seen people walk away from games from. This might be just me, but if the DM's I played with said "Yeah, I think Wizards are too good, so you're getting no spells, you start a lower level than everyone else and you begin with a curse which stops you casting magic", I know my first instict is "Well, Wizards are worthless. I'll play a Barbarian", and not "Man, this is such good roleplaying opportunity!". If I'd seen that he'd done this to other players too, I wouldn't be sitting down at that table.
Also, a lack of story doesn't impact mechanics or roleplaying whatsoever, so if we're discussing the need for balance, can people please stop refering to things like Stormwind Fallacy? A roleplaying game doesn't need a good story, it doesn't need a story full stop. It needs something the players enjoy. You can games where the entirity is 'You're in a dungeon, take the stuff'. You can play a game with nearly all dice rolling. You can play a game with Lord of the Rings sweeping epics. None of these ideas are superior, and none of them are inferior. Some people want heavy story out of their RPGs, and some don't. Once again, the mechanics have nothing to do with this.
Playing powerful characters with few flaws mechanically does -not- make you a bad roleplayer. "I can't cast magic" doesn't make for good roleplaying, but playing up a flaw which doesn't impact you mechanically, such as your blatent alcoholism after your children was killed can. Playing someone who's completely gimped ("I'm a magic user, who can't use magic because of a curse!") does not make you a good roleplayer. Mechanics doesn't dictate your roleplaying, outside of a few systems (Wushu, where there's very little crunch and all the system is boils down to 'Roleplay and roll a dice. This'll say if you succeed or fail.')
a step further to find more and better ways for my super heroes(players) to get a chance to be useful and have fun.
As for balance... I never said I didn't care about balance. I just don't see balance as an issue when it can be utilized as part of the story and adds more depth to the play and plot. It reminds me of a super hero team like the avengers where sometimes some of them are more useful then others but everyone on the team proves to be useful as the story goes along. I just take it a step further to find more and better ways for my super heroes(players) to get a chance to be useful and have fun.
...And what you seem to desire is a very rigid set of guidelines like what's in a miniatures game with lots of dice rolling. I think that's why we don't see things the same way. Whereas I usually involve my players in hours of story, dialogue, problem solving, and character building. I can play whole sessions with hardly a dice being rolled.
Because games which make this set-up mandatory usually blow. Have you ever played FASERIP? The game where you can roll up a party, as standard, and have one character come out as Thor with all the power of the cosmos and the ability to change reality, while another character ends up as Aqua Boy, with the amazing power to breath underwater? In a lot of RPGs, people expect to be the driving force of the plot. They want to be the main cast. I know I do. When I play an RPG, I want to be part of the driving force of the story, not a faceless, useless Robin standin while the rest of the party plays Batman.
Imbalance in a game doesn't make it bad (see Exalted, one of the most raved about and loved settings I've seen), but it does make it horribly hard to play. Scion was even worse, an awesome setting with a game which was near unplayable due to copy-pasted Exalted rules by amataur writers. Not to mention, imbalance (and some of the examples of balance, like 'curse the Wizard so he can never cast') can actively make a story or characters act out of character, if you're going for heavy story or heavy immersion - for example, assume the standard party who 'got together in a tavern to hunt for treasure'. Why would they travel alongside a Wizard who can't cast magic, and contributes nothing to the party? In game, they don't know the Wizard is played by someone. In setting, they're a bunch of people who's lives could be ended if someone screws up. So, why would a bunch of adventurers bring on dead weight, logically, knowing they can't do their job? They wouldn't. But you have to metagame 'em in and stick with it, because that person who can't cast magic is a real person, and most likely your friend just across the table from you.
It still doesn't change the mechanics. If you're playing a game where a lot of the mechanical side sees no use? Yeah, balance isn't as huge a priority for ya. But when a game does have rigid guidelines and rules (which unless you're playing heavily light crunch games - even Amber diceless has quite a few rules and crunch to it), then those rules are going to be there, and when they come around, it's generally preferable that they don't suck and make a characters mechanical choices suck. As pointed out, a Wizard can do a Rogue's job easier, and better, which isn't fun to play for a lot of players when the Rogue wants to be the sneaky, backstabbing assassin, but he can't legitimately do that because the Wizard is constantly outperforming him in that regard. It's not fun to have mechanics destroy your concept and what you want you character to be able to do.