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Balancing characters can be a delicate practice that comes as a discouraging challenge for some but comes as natural as breathing for others. To balance a character is to weigh his given strengths against his given weaknesses and, if necessary, adjust them so that the character is both realistic and fair when used in role-play, whether that role-play is public or private. Almost every character has some sort of talent or tendency that he performs with above average proficiency. These special abilities tend to define the character historically and personally. It's important, then, for a character to also possess the natural faults that come with having such abilities. A character who spent his entire childhood alone in the dark recesses of a forgotten dungeon with nothing to do but train with a bow and eat cave mushrooms may be an unsurpassed prodigy with the weapon, and is probably going to even have remarkable night vision. However, that same character may be very sensitive to light and have horribly crippled social skills because he spent the most critical developmental years of his life in complete solitude. 

The General IdeaEdit

The basic gist of balancing a character is to make sure any outstanding advances on part of a character are also met with an equal and opposite development, whether it be a physical strength that also comes with a downside or a powerful magical skill learned at the cost of forfeiting an important social opportunity. This helps to grow a realistic, compelling, and dynamic character. Conversely, it also helps to deter a character from becoming a mary sue.

It's important to note that, while the ratio isn't always one-to-one, it's usually best for great strengths to be met with great limitations. For example, the vampyre race as a whole is devastatingly strong: in addition to supernatural strength, speed, and psychic abilities, they are immune to all but a handful of things in the known world, most of which are kept behind heavy lock and key. However, those strengths are balanced by the fact that all of vampyre kind are trapped helplessly inside of swampy Morytania, safely isolated from all but those who enter the land of their own volition. Some also consider the bat-like vampyric appearance to be a balancing factor, on the grounds that the vampyre race loses the option of possessing humanoid beauty to gain its strength.

Balancing Within Specific CategoriesEdit

Balancing Combat AbilitiesEdit

[The idea]

[An example]

Balancing Magical AbilitiesEdit

[The idea]

[An example]

Balancing Working SkillsEdit

[The idea]

[An example]

Balancing Social SkillsEdit

[The idea]

[An example]

Balancing Physical AttributesEdit

[The idea]

[An example]

Balancing In-Character DevelopmentEdit

A character's traits are made up of two parts: birth traits, granted to the character upon original creation, and developed traits, granted over the course of a character's time spent in role-playing. It's usually fairly easy for a character to be balanced at the beginning of its life, because the person creating that character has everything laid out in front of him at once, with all checks and balances visible in one organized place. Naturally, the longer a character spends actively in role-play, the more opportunities it has to grow new traits, strengths, or advantages (as well as misfortunes or weaknesses). Most players agree that, within reason, it's fair for a character who has had a longer lifetime in-character to have gained more advantages. However, this tolerance is limited. As a result, it's important for a player to regularly evaluate his character to make sure that all major changes, growths, or gains in life are met with approximately equal and opposite changes, sacrifices, or losses in other parts of his life.

For example, a player could start out with a character who is a sexy, spontaneous young archer with a sharp talent for lying and not a lot else in terms of money or skills going for her except maybe a basic education. It's expected that, over time, if this character continued to regularly practice with archery she would naturally grow in her ability. Most players would probably accept this growth without a second thought. However, in the mean time she also works her way up into a high-profile military office, gains a widespread reputation, takes up and masters fletchery, goes on a dozen missions to bring down abominable foes, secretly dies and undergoes a necromantic resurrection, and learns patience, measurement, and responsibility by enduring the trials of all of these years. With a resume like this, it may be good to check back and make sure the character has experienced worthwhile counter-balances. As a result of the stress of her military office and the expectations that come with being known and recognized at every turn, she has lost her firm grasp on subterfuge and is much more likely to wear her emotions on her sleeve. During the time she was mastering fletchery, she passed up the chance to teach archery to an apprentice or bear a child and has no heir or successor of any kind, as well as stagnated her further progression in the military. While on missions to take down beasts, she obtained a number of scars and permanent bodily damage, not the least of which includes some damaged nerves and loss of feeling to her pinky and ring finger in her left hand. After enduring necromancy, her skin has taken a pale, greyish hue and her sleep is constantly haunted by perilous nightmares, leading her either to insomnia or dependence on apothecarial remedies. And finally, though the years have given her gifts, it has also taken her youth and left her with the wear-worn leftovers of her young beauty.

One key thing to remember when reflecting on how balanced a character's growth has been is that not all "equal opposites" are perfectly literal. A trait gained in combat doesn't have to be balanced by the loss of another trait in combat, nor does it have to be balanced by one single loss of equal calibur: several smaller counter-balances that add up to something of the same worth are equally as effective. In addition, it's okay to let some development go unbalanced, because role-play is about playing the characters who do remarkable things, and therefore are naturally bound towards making great accomplishments. The important thing to remember is moderation; your character is free to grow in good ways, just keep it in check overall to help your character keep the realism and fairness you carefully worked out for her in the start.

Reconciling Everything into One CharacterEdit

[The idea]

[An example]

OtherEdit

  • While it is possible to be unbalanced towards having too many weaknesses or losses, this is considered much more acceptable in role-play. The reasoning behind this mindset is that, if your character is under-balanced or under-powered, it doesn't hurt anyone but your character and you are free to make the choice to have him endure that misfortune. However, if your character is over-powered or unbalanced in other ways that favor him unrealistically, it's unfair at the cost of others without giving those others a free choice in the matter.

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