5e total conversions and game balance

On a whim I backed a Kickstarter for a cyberpunk 5e “total conversion”. It got me thinking about how you do deep system balance.

Somewhere there has to be a set of rules – a spreadsheet, a Perl script, something – that TSR and now WotC uses to work out game balance.

There’s back-of-the-envelope stuff in the 5e DMG, buried in the back (the part no one reads, I imagine – but you should, it’s some of the best stuff!). But, it’s very abstract and intended more to just get you into the balance ballpark.

So for example, what I’m wondering about is a small piece of math like:

  1. For every spell level, base damage is 1d10.
  2. automatic hits drop damage to d8 per level
  3. for every 3 point save DC interval above 10, add +1 to damage

And so on. Some sort of balance algorithm.

A friend of mine tried once to reverse engineer this; he had a Perl script and a spreadsheet. He got pretty far into it; mostly enough to decide what he had worked well enough for his own games. Whatver math didn’t work out, he’d just eyeball and improvise in the context of the session.

TSR, WotC, and other D&D publishers don’t get to do that; you can’t improve printed materials. So it stands to reason there’s at least some way to 1)assure balance before press and 2)verify empirically (better than a guess) the balance of submitted materials. Right?