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Jadasc raised a great point here.

There are few problems that can challenge a mage that won't completely outclass a vampire, unless the vampires are extraordinarily experienced or well connected and the mages are barely out of apprenticeship.

Add to this changelings and werewolves and who knows what else from the World of Darkness game, and it can lead to a very unbalanced set of characters.

At what point do each of the 'races' become balanced with respect to each others' abilities, if at all?
Is such a group possible?

Edit: An example from a comment I made:

If I am playing a Vampire/Promethean game, should the Vampires start at two blood points? Should they be given some XP to level the playing field? Or should the Promethean players be handi-capped? Is it a case of working the story and challenges within so both 'races' can contribute equally?

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It is worth notice that in a setting where - for whatever reason - no one can use his powers, everyone would be more or less on the same grounds; that's not an answer to your question, but it would be quite an interesting setting. –  Lohoris Jan 2 '12 at 16:30

5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Jon Chung, a known expert at optimizing for White Wolf games, lays it out this way:

  • Tier 0: Mortals
  • Tier 1: Minor Templates
  • Tier 2: Vampire/Werewolf
  • Tier 3: Changeling/Promethean

    Linear vs exponential split

  • Tier 4: Geist
  • Tier 5: Mage

His suggestion is that mixed games work best when you don't go more than one tier apart or cross the linear/exponential gap. For example, it's his contention that there's no amount that could make vampires and mages equivalent; the sheer scope of the Arcana to which mages have access rapidly dwarfs the capabilities of a vampire. His suggestion would be to use something like the rules from World of Darkness: Second Sight or Hunter: Witch Finders, which give the feel of magic users without the power of awakened mages. A Tier 2/3 game might work, especially if it's one that is, as you describe, more focused on intrigue than on conflict.

In response to your secondary question -- mostly that last idea. The Created are going to be magical and physical powerhouses compared to the vampires... but they have massive problems when dealing with humans and have limited access to certain Merits. Emphasize the different arenas where the types are strongest, and you'll have a balanced game.

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So how experienced would a vampire need to be to be 'equivalent' to a mage, for example? –  Pureferret Jan 2 '12 at 15:35
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It's his contention that there's no amount that could make those two equivalent; the sheer scope of the Arcana to which mages have access rapidly dwarfs the capabilities of a vampire. His suggestion would be to use something like the rules from World of Darkness: Second Sight or Hunter: Witch Finders, which give the feel of magic users without the power of awakened mages. –  Jadasc Jan 2 '12 at 15:38
    
So a Tier 2/3 game might work? –  Pureferret Jan 2 '12 at 16:07
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If I am playing a Vampire/Promethean game, should the Vampires start at two blood points? Should they be given some XP to level the playing field? Or should the Promethean players be handi-capped? Is it a case of working the story and challenges within so both 'races' can contribute equally? –  Pureferret Jan 2 '12 at 16:37
3  
@Pureferret Mostly that last one. The Created are going to be magical and physical powerhouses compared to the vampires... but they have massive problems when dealing with humans and have limited access to certain Merits. Emphasize the different arenas where the types are strongest, and you'll have a balanced game. –  Jadasc Jan 11 '12 at 14:25

As an alternative approach, the Storyteller may balance things out not by boosting certain PCs (with experience etc) but by adjusting the challenge level the individual PCs face.

So, you have a Tier 5 (see the answer by @Jadasc) mage and a Tier 2 vampire? Introduce a villain who's primarily out to get the mage. A rival mage, a nasty spirit, or something straight out of the Abyss - but take care not to unbalance the fun factor / focus of the story: don't make the mage the most important protagonist. Tricky, but it can be done, imo.

An example: in the old SW movies, Luke (the mage) had Vader (another mage) to deal with, whereas Solo and Chewbacca (the... werewolves? ;)) had Jabba and Fett (a nasty spirit and another werewolf, both of their power level) to overcome. Vader could (have) easily take out Solo & Co. (and Jabba and Fett too), but he wasn't that interested in them, whereas Jabba and Fett were clever enough, for a while, at least, not to mess directly with Luke (the mage.)

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You make a very good point with an excellent example. The only issue I have is the risk of splitting the game in two. How do you tie both sides together? –  Pureferret Jan 3 '12 at 10:39
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@Pureferret I'm glad you liked the idea, thanks. :) Such games do come with a certain amount of splitting, with scenes not always featuring all the PCs. The key, imo, is to keep the threads thoroughly interwoven and parallel, so that it's in everyone's best interest to help the others - but nobody can just go and solve the others' problems because that would risk their own problem getting completely out of hand. It also helps if the PCs' backstories bring them close together, which closeness the plot should reinforce from time to time. –  OpaCitiZen Jan 3 '12 at 10:46
    
So in the mage/vampire case the mage would struggle to petition the prince to let him into his elysium to look at some magey stuff. But the magey stuff is beyond the vampire. Meaning they both need each other? –  Pureferret Jan 3 '12 at 10:55
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Definitely worth the +1. I'll note, though, that Luke is an untrained mage in A New Hope and "just out of apprenticeship" in Empire. It's only in Jedi that he has access to his full capability; at that point, he's no longer facing the same challenges as Han, Leia and the non-magical crew. –  Jadasc Jan 3 '12 at 11:09
    
@Pureferret Something along those lines, yes. Maybe what the Prince has access to is a threat to the Prince herself as well (what's better, to the entire domain of mortals she rules over), but she can't handle it alone. Problem is, she can't really trust the mage('s kind), can she? So they'll need to get closer, get friendlier - with and through the help of the vampire PC. Also, even when the Prince allows the mage access finally, the mage himself is not the final key, he may fail... –  OpaCitiZen Jan 3 '12 at 12:07

I've been running MtAW for a couple of years now, its the most popular game line in my group. What I normally do to balance mixed genre games is placed in the design of my setting. Most supernats have a form of social hindrance when using their powers such as the masquerade for vampire and the paradox for mage (not to mention "keepers" for changeling and Lunacy for werewolves.) This social challange becomes the key ingredient for me when I run mixed genre NWOD.

Here's an example: A werewolf, a vampire, and a mage go into a crowded night club, all three player's decide to use a power. The vampire seduces a women in order to feed for the night. Since Majesty (or dominate, auspex, and obfuscate, etc.) doesn't gather much attention from mortals without an ability to see mystical powers, there's no real danger to the masquerade. The werewolf at the same time in the club is attacked by a spirit of murder and defends himself with a gift. If this gift is something that even a no exp mortal could notice than lunacy kicks in and the mortal literally makes up a fictitious story as to what he'd just witnessed. Now the mage, the mage opted to teleport into the bar's restroom in order to get passed (insert plot device.) Since teleportation is vulgar even on the best of days a paradox roll is made.

Firstly, and this is where setting design really levels the playing field, establish your paradox dice pool. If mage really isn't your thing than don't run it until you get comfortable with the paradox mechanic because it's what balances the game lines. Its Half gnosis rounded up contested against half the player's wisdom rounded down, + the gauntlet rating of the night club's spirit world + two for any sleeper in the bathroom who noticed anything "strange." I use strange loosely because the more Over Powered the mage in my setting the more observant sleeper's tend to be.

So despite the over powered nature of mage, the consequences of these three supernats go something like this, The weakest in terms of power, the Vampire, has a great night and a full stomach for intelligently using his discipline. The Werewolf, the second place runner in power level, may attract some unwanted attention of supernats in the bar since whatever power they used to cause lunacy typically causes a bit of a scene and the vampire sitting across the room now knows theirs a wolf in his sheep and may chose to tell the prince. The over powered mage however, could be dead, if the bathroom had three sleepers in it (+6), and the night club had state of the art security (which increases the gauntlet rating to about 3 or 4), and the player only rolled one success to stop the paradox with a 3 Gnosis (-1 your dice pool of 11) than your rolling 10 dice, with one out of three odds for success, that's three paradox for using recklessly using an OP power congrats to your player he gets a bedlam (a severe derangement that can't be mystically removed) for as long as you feel is appropriate. That's assuming you don't roll high or low on the roll. Rolling 5 would mean the player takes resistant aggravated damage equal to his total number of accumulated paradox points this scene.

So to sum up, in mixed genre, the socioeconomics of a setting become really important. You've got to plan out your setting's Shadow for both werewolf and mage to determine the spirit gauntlet as well as an vital social aspect of werewolf deciding how much hell the wolves catch learning new gifts and possibly use the shadow as an advantage over vampires, sin-eaters, Promethean, and mortal. Also, what kind of prince, if any, is in charge of what is considered "a breach" in the masquerade. Bear in mind that in addition to paradox, mages also have to deal with the Heirarch of any given city who typically punish reckless mages since invoking paradox damages the spirit world increasing the gauntlet rating in consequent areas.

I hope this was of any value.

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The question has already been answered pretty thoroughly, but just as food for thought, I'd like to point out that the new World of Darkness was designed with an eye for game balance in mind. At least in the Mage book, there's a detailed layout of what the designers did to try and balance it against the others. (If you'd like me to look up the page number or post it, let me know.)

As a practical suggestion for a 'fully integrated' game, at the start of the game, calculate the XP cost of the template (on the outside, since players like to min-max), then give players the difference between that cost and how much xp you want them to start with. It's most relevant with mortals, but you might find some minor differences with other templates to. If you find later that the power levels have diverged significantly, discuss with your players what they feel needs to be done (if anything).

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Admittedly, all of my experience is with oWOD and I have never played nWOD. But, when I wanted to run mixed games I often introduced house rules that helped level the playing field.

If all vampires have some innate magic resistance based on [Age Category] + [generation] to rotes used directly on them and thaumaturgy can be used to disrupt spells then it makes vampires substantially harder to deal with for mages.

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