Often we get questions such as Is moving between separate attacks of the same spell unbalanced?

The trouble I always face with these questions is "unbalanced with respect to what?". All house rules and homebrew are inherently unbalanced because they introduce changes to the game. Whether they introduce new possibilities or remove old possibilities, every change modifies the balance of the game in some way.

What's more, the ways that game balance is modified is almost always widespread, highly nuanced, and difficult to discern. There is no clear way to create a finite and exhaustive list of how it interacts with game balance. These questions are incredibly open-ended. Even a simple change can lead to near-endless discussion and debate.

Even if we did have a complete list of every interaction, there would be actually-endless debate over whether this makes the change overpowered or underpowered. There is never a clear way to weigh up something like "+1 damage" vs "+5ft of movement", making discussion almost purely opinion. Discussions can even turn into complex statements about how a change "is underpowered, except for these 2 situations where it is exploitable, but if you make this change then it's mainly overpowered, but only slightly etc".

There is no metric for "how unbalanced is acceptable", so we can't even say "we've answered this question to a satisfactory extent". This is exacerbated by the site's tendency to prefer "one true answer" over "multiple helpful answers".

We also have to contend with this site's guideline that "asking questions isn't for brainstorming or getting ideas". On other sites these kinds of questions may fly, but they seem to me to be a poor fit here.

How can we handle these questions in a way that is both helpful to askers, and maintain the site's high standard for answers?


2 Answers 2


With our words.

Many homebrew review problems do an excellent job, in their texts, of describing what balance is being sought. Maybe it's spotlight-time, maybe it's combat effectiveness, maybe it's rewarding a particular style of play.

When a question is well-posed like that ^^ it's easy for voters to read answers, filter them through their experience, and decide whether the answer deserves an upvote or downvote or comment or both or nothing.

But some aren't.

So people comment asking for a standard of review, and maybe they even vote to close as needing further details. (Sometimes the need for homebrew/aim sought by homebrewing is so vague or invisible that a simple "what problem are you trying to solve?" is the only comment that can be made!)

Every one of these questions is a beloved, unique child of its creator. (In more ways, perhaps, than the typical rules or table-dynamics question.) And they get treated that way by our users.


Some excellent guidelines on how to answer a question already exist

I believe these guidelines give excellent ways to tackle these seemingly incredibly subjective questions in more measurable and tangible ways. Many of the guidelines found there can also apply to questions:

One can compare a houserule to similar existing content; it's rather uncommon that a houserule introduces something completely unheard of prior to the houserule's introduction.

One can look for how the houserule departs from the consistencies of pre-existing content.

One can check whether or not a given houserule actually achieves the goal they wanted it to. That said, a houserule often doesn't have to be explicitly worded in whatever jargon and style the original system was and so it's not uncommon that a houserule explicitly states it's goals and that it just flatly accomplishes them, no rules-writing required.

Suggestions on changes to a houserule are also something welcome on this site though I'd recommend following some of the advice found in the following related Q/A:

Finally, encouraging playtesting is always a good idea because though one can theorize for infinite time, seeing the houserules play out in action are where we can see how imbalancing certain things really are.

Addressing some of the specific questions

  1. Unbalanced with respect to what?

    Firstly, if a houserule is being suggested it clearly must be changing something, else the houserule would not exist. Therefore, when somebody asks whether a change is "balanced" they are not asking "does this change change things?" they are asking "does this change unreasonably change things?"

    The line between a small change and a major change, a reasonable change and an unreasonable, imbalancing change is subjective, yes, but that does not mean it can't fit the site. We have hundreds of questions on social situations and things like gm-techniques and problem-players, there is clearly no single objective, best answer to any of these things. The same applies to questions.

  1. Addressing the nuance

    Houserules often have ramifications outside the scope of what the asker imagined, this is almost unavoidable. One of the benefits of a houserule is that a GM has the leeway to alter it at any time; answers don't have to address every nuanced change because a GM can address them as they come up in play.

    That said, an answer can certainly address changes they feel are particularly alarming, and which changes those are will come down to the subjective experience of the answerer and their own understanding/mastery of a system.

  1. Discussion is purely opinion

    Opinions are not a bad thing and are almost unavoidable. The thing we look for in an answer is that it backs up its claims, either by having the houserule in question (or a similar one), or by demonstrating a great understanding of the system. This is often done through comparison to other pre-existing features.

    Of course, two people can disagree on whether something in particular is imbalancing, but people disagree on answers all the time. The thing to do is back it up.

  1. The site's tendency to prefer "one true answer" over "multiple helpful answers"

    The "Don't Ask" page states:

    [...] avoid asking subjective questions where …

    • every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?” [...]

    The "Accepted Answer" page states:

    [...] Accepting an answer is not meant to be a definitive and final statement indicating that the question has now been answered perfectly. It simply means that the author received an answer that worked for them personally. [...]

    Perhaps I'm out of some sort of loop but I have not felt any sort of pressing need to have one answer per question, or to have ultimate perfect answers either. Two people can write different answers from different evidence and viewpoints, coming to the same or different conclusions; that doesn't make one of the answers bad. The site has accepted answers but those are literally personal to the question asker and have no bearing on the quality of a given answer.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Anyway about your post, you give a lot of good advice but ultimately I don't feel like the vagueness is resolved. For example if one answer says "it's fine" and another says "I'm concerned about X", no matter how well thought out the first is, if the second finds anything then it kind of disproves it. It's still not clear how much backing up is needed. I suspect "to the extent that I agree with the answer". Houserules are definitely something we can answer, but it feels like existing policies are being bent to allow it. \$\endgroup\$ May 21, 2020 at 4:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @gszavae You are not going to find clear guidelines on "how much backing up" an answer needs. There's not even any way to measure an amount of backed-up-ness and attempts to make such a system will only allow for that system to be exploited as loopholes are found. Also, competing answers can and basically always will exist and that is not a problem; two people can use perfectly valid analyses and techniques and experience while arriving at completely different conclusions. That's the case with basically everything, including with these sorts of questions \$\endgroup\$ May 21, 2020 at 4:02

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