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Game balancing vs. incentive for RP


Hi Andrunians!

I wanted to share a thought that occured to me today, while playing, about the balancing of the game on Andrune.

As I was trawling along in a dungeon along with ASlapForJoffrey, I noticed that I tended to avoid writing long RP descriptions and stop to talk. That was because of the limited duration of my potions, upon which I depended to stay alive in the Irontooth mines. Take too long to RP in the mine and the potions wear off, and I have to use another batch, which is quite expensive (since I am stacking quite a lot). The game system effectively punishes players who stop and RP during a dungeon run.

The heavy use of potions is needed in order to stay with the progression of enemy attack bonus and so forth. It is the way this server is balanced; you need to pop potions to run dungeons appropriate for your level (or have a mage, of course... but we're far past the point where you can expect many people of your level to be around consistently).

Now, I'm going to open up a can of worms - stay with me for a while:

There is a lack of items with permanent boosts to character abilities. This is intentional. It is meant to reflect a setting with a low density of highly magical items. But why is that, exactly? I suppose it is because of two position (that is my guess, anyway), and I want to try to counter both here.

1) Low-magic settings are more credible.

We all want it to be Lord of the Rings, right? Or at least make a little intuitive sense... Too much magic screws with the logic and aesthetics of the game world and can turn it wholly weird and completely unbelievable.

Counter-argument 1: While, on the whole, I agree with this point, it is an entirely lost cause in D&D above level 14 or so. Spirits are summoned, skin turns to stone, Shadowdancers do Hide in Plain Sight, etc. etc. etc... There are plenty of weird effects in play. And the real kicker; permanent item boosts need not be very apparent. Permanent AC boosts on armor, for example, could just as well indicate exquisite craftsmanship as it could magic.

Counter-argument 2: It actually makes the setting more weird to cut out highly magical items. Huh? Well just look at the amount of potions needed to keep up with dungeon level progression. This goes doubly for defensive potions. Flashy effects abound and characters stopping all over to chug another one, in the weirdest places.

It is important to remember that most static boosts are hidden, in a sense. They are not flashy and do not have strange effects on game-play.

2) It balances fighting characters better in PvP

It is never nice to know, as a low-level character, that you would only be able to hit the other guy on a natural 20. Even huge groups of low-levels would never wear down a high-level character because the static defenses are so high.

Counter-argument 1: It doesn't matter. The high-level character is going to wipe the floor with any low-levels, because of the way attack bonus works (more attacks) and because of the big HP pools given to higher-level characters.

Counter-argument 2: The high level character is going to bring potions anyway, turning it into a scene where the low-level characters attack a few times, the high-level imbibes a few potions, having scraped his knee or a similar irrelevant wound, then he/she obliterates the low-level people. It just delays the inevitable.

Counter-argument 3: It balances fighters, and nothing else. All mages can still summon creatures with AC and AB that scale according to canonical D&D. Sneak attacks from rogues become hilariously effective, with even the lowest-AB attacks hitting consistently.

***

With these arguments at hand, I want to ask what the reasoning is behind the low-power permanent buff items. Less focus on potions will make dungeoneering less bound by time, and in turn allow for more flexibility when conducting RP during dungeon runs.

Last edited by Eowomyrill, 9/20/2013, 1:47 pm


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Re: Game balancing vs. incentive for RP


I suppose we can come up with other ways to make gold a resource for mages and rogues. In general the kinds of potions that will be expiring during roleplay runs aren't a necessity, and are often dirt cheap: like Armoring and Barkskin. We can lower the prices of basic potions if its stifling roleplay. I admit potion chugging is, unfortunately, a little bit immersion breaking.

The flashier consumables like Potions Stoneskin, Death Ward, Haste and True Strike - or bottled ragewood sap, high level scrolls, etc. are meant for extraordinary situations. Do you want to spend 700g to make your fight against a death-spell flinging lich a sure thing? Do you -really- want to beat that other player in a duel that you're willing to shell out 3000g on true strike potions and scrolls of missile storm?

Magic items you can activate, that are of limited supply, basically encourage you to make tough choices during combat. It adds another element to the game you miss out in if you're a fighter/weaponmaster in generic +5's, where you can turn on Improved Expertise, and grab a cup of coffee.

There were two considerations in this design:
(1) Its more a matter of making gold a valued and highly desirable resource.
(2) It evens out the disparity between pure, non-magical fighters and Spellsword and cleric builds who have access to spells and scrolls.

Last edited by Numos, 9/22/2013, 3:14 pm


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Numos: Shapeshifting wizard
Taevis Bentham: Woodsman
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Re: Game balancing vs. incentive for RP


I prettymuch agree with Numos on this one but would go a step further in saying all CR-appropriate dungeons should be finishable without requiring a lot of buffs up constantly (I know the practicality of this is a bit harder than just stating the principle) and that any buffing potion, even minor, should be of a reduced duration but increased potency. This means they'd only last the duration of one encounter, but wouldn't cramp RP in between fights.

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DM: CR 40 Housecat
PC: Vera Smith
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Re: Game balancing vs. incentive for RP


Thank you both for your good replies. It has cleared it up a little bit, especially on the account of why potions work as they do on Andrune. emoticon It is important to note that none of this breaks the server at all, as I see it. I think the balancing between different game mechanics is, overall, really good.

quote:

(...)Do you want to spend 700g to make your fight against a death-spell flinging lich a sure thing?(...)


I do not think it is ever a choice to most players (they, and I, will just grind low-level areas to make sure they/I can buy proper wards). But regardless, this is where it becomes interesting! With things like Haste, Displacement, etc. - effects that are not just another stat boost bonus, but a special effect, unlike usual equipment modifiers. They are are supposed to be balanced so that we use them in special cases, and there we completely agree.

quote:

Magic items you can activate, that are of limited supply, basically encourage you to make tough choices during combat.(...)


Do we want tough tactical choices, though? There is this seeming tendency to regard tough tactical choices as an always-all-good kind of thing. There are plenty of good games with little tactical depth- just enough keep it interesting. D&D 4th ed. doubled up on tactical depth and it was a miserable fiasco both RP-wise and sales-wise, because even though everybody shouted "tactical depth" that was not what players actually wanted. The players wanted character. Both in regards to the system, but also in regards to options for making characters unique, and expressing that uniqueness in the way they approached combat.

quote:

There were two considerations in this design:
(1) Its more a matter of making gold a valued and highly desirable resource.
(2) It evens out the disparity between pure, non-magical fighters and Spellsword and cleric builds who have access to spells and scrolls.


I agree with both points. There is no need of a major overhaul. The devil is in the detail, though. emoticon


As it works right now, available static defense is sufficiently low that it would never make sense to not buff up on Barkskin, Armoring and Shielding. This increases my AC by a whooping +9, and it still has me chugging healing potions like nobody's business. In short, it is an essential, unavoidable "choice".

I would humbly suggest shop-available items with "boring" flat stat boosts, especially defensive ones. Extra AC, saves, enchantment on weapons, so on. This is all available as random drops anyway, it seems to me. Armor and deflection AC, if I remember correctly, do not stack well with spells like Mage Armor and Shield. The effect would be that the importance of potions of Armoring and Shielding (the ubiquitous, dirt cheap ones, by high-level standards) fade out over time because they will no longer provide the bulk of the character's protection.

Last edited by Eowomyrill, 9/23/2013, 1:46 pm


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Re: Game balancing vs. incentive for RP


quote:

Do we want tough tactical choices, though?



Absolutely.

I very much like Numos' design sense here, and I appreciate that he's approaching it from a game design perspective, rather than just a player/custom modder's perspective.

I think there's a bit of a disconnect, though, between the design vision, here, and the implementation. Having to decide whether you want to invest a few hundred or a few thousand gold into enough buffs to defeat a tough enemy is a design choice I love. The problem, for me, is that there are some parts of the leveling curve, where there are no not-tough enemies.

At least, in my experience, from level 6 onward I've hit a kind of brick wall where some of the dungeons are scaled a bit too high in difficulty and pretty much require consumables to clear (if only healing potions/kits to bring you back to full HP between pulls). And that's saying something, as I consider myself something of a min-maxer and effective character builder.

At that point, it's less of a choice of "Do you invest in consumables to defeat this extra dangerous boss" and more of a choice of, "Do you invest in consumables to continue progressing your character."
9/23/2013, 6:43 pm Link to this post Send Email to Valyndyral   Send PM to Valyndyral
 
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Re: Game balancing vs. incentive for RP


I'd love to go back and start rebalancing, or add new dungeons that are genuinely enjoyable. I'd appreciate any submissions people want to put together:

If variety of equipment is an issue, I'm always looking for new, atmospheric loot to add to our dungeons.

---
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Numos: Shapeshifting wizard
Taevis Bentham: Woodsman
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Re: Game balancing vs. incentive for RP


quote:

Valyndyral wrote:

I very much like Numos' design sense here, and I appreciate that he's approaching it from a game design perspective, rather than just a player/custom modder's perspective.


I think I may have presented the case in the wrong way, then. I am suggesting exactly that it should be approached as a game designer. But what kind of game should it be? What should be on a player's mind in a given situation? For instance, games like Heavy Rain had plenty of game design, even though none of it involved tactical choice - it was simply a different kind of game. That is what I suggest we discuss for a while. What should we, the players for which the game is designed, think about when we sit at our keyboards? This is governed immensely by game design.

I wager that anything that lets us concentrate on character and RP is a good design decision - but I'm not saying I am "right" in an objective sense. But I wish that we all realize there are other ways to design great game experiences instead of pushing the big red "we want tactical choices" button. emoticon

quote:

At that point, it's less of a choice of "Do you invest in consumables to defeat this extra dangerous boss" and more of a choice of, "Do you invest in consumables to continue progressing your character."


On this, I agree. It is not a choice, but an entry fee.

quote:

Numos wrote:

If variety of equipment is an issue, I'm always looking for new, atmospheric loot to add to our dungeons.



In a sense, this is one of the issues I am getting at, but turn it around; More equipment in shops with base stat boosts, but not varied equipment with exotic effects. If these bonuses do not stack with low-level potions (such as armor bonus to AC), they will eventually eclipse the potions and make sure that high-levels don't have to chug 4-5 potions prior to entering dungeons. This will keep the choice where it is relevant; with potions matching the level, eventually eliminating "entry-fee" potions, the the PC needs to maintain continually to survive.

More equipment with varied (and exotic) effects have a tendency to stack up in strange ways, sending PC power levels off on uncontrolled sprints. This would be just as damaging, perhaps even more, because character power level would then start to depend on lucky loot drops and clever ways of stacking effects.

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Re: Game balancing vs. incentive for RP


I think we should try to remove the use of scrolls and potions as much as possible, seriously, how many potions can someone drink? seen people emptying 10 bottles before going to combat.

Better to make the variety of magical items much larger and make them expensive so someone actualy start to save up for that awsome sword +1 with a d4 slashing. . if he dont want. or sell boots that gives you +4 con but have a -2 in dex and -2 hide -2 move silently because they are clumsy. a hat that gives you +3 int but -2 charisma because it makes you look funny. have alot of choises when it comes to items, but make them expensive.
put 1 use/day on them to make the character able to do something awsome now and then. and leave the spellcasting to spellcasters, healing to clerics to let every class be special in the way they are supposed.

Try to get rid of all the flashy effects so a dungeon run doesn't look like a episode of starwars.
And pretend a +1 weapon is not always magical, it can also mean it is made of better steel then your normal blade.


Last edited by Lanthar, 10/1/2013, 7:47 pm


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Re: Game balancing vs. incentive for RP


I disagree with almost everything you said there. :/

Last edited by Valyndyral, 10/1/2013, 10:00 pm
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Re: Game balancing vs. incentive for RP


The biggest problem with not making efforts to even out the classes (and 'let every class be special in the way they are supposed' ) is that the system of DND is inherently skewed towards party play of 4-6 players and a persistent world needs to be able to support solo play in some form or another. Being a 'niche' build can be fun, but sometimes very draining.

Buff items, potions, class changes, they all create a better environment overall. I think how to approach those changes has been addressed here pretty clearly (bridging the gap between casters, noncasters, and caster hybrids, potions as a requirement VS a bonus, etc).

Items with high bonuses (+4, +5) that have drawbacks are cool, but those drawbacks need to be carefully considered. A +3 Int -2 CHA item on a Wizard is an insane bonus, in exchange for a stat with no mechanical loss. +4 CON is a lot of effective HP, and I'd much rather have 40+ HP at level 20 than 1 AC. Those sorts of items really benefit min-maxing. It's best to directly balance an item with itself, for example a sword with:
+5 AB
+5 Cold Damage
-3 AC
-3 Universal Saving Throws

A sword inherently puts you into melee, and for all intents and purposes it's a +5 weapon, but it also makes going into melee that much more dangerous. You sacrifice durability at the gain of more damage. Those stats wouldn't really work on a ranged weapon because the point of a ranged weapon is to not get into the thick of the damage.(Such a weapon is only an example, though, and not fit to Andrune's balance.)

As for rapid use of potions, both defensive and healing, we have a number of monsters that do make quick work of softer, squishier characters. (I particularly think of a stray crit from a gnoll berserker.) Right now your best response to that to avoid sudden death is to stand and chug, (or stand and bandage) because fleeing is very likely to end with you getting the same greataxe to the back. Your best defense against avoiding that in the first place is to do what you can to put up temporary defenses, often in potion form. Limiting how much someone can drink/use suddenly makes those monsters a lot deadlier and makes burst damage very attractive overall. (Not entirely a bad thing, but not something I'd want to see launched at low level characters.)

I think it's easy to forget how painful low levels can be if you've mostly played a high level character that's established with high level gear. (I know I've been guilty of that.) I don't think it takes much compromise to the server setting or magic level to make those low - mid levels smoother.

Last edited by Totems, 10/2/2013, 1:49 am


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Characters:
Isania Jalitana- The Huntress (and Mistress Egofantastic.)
Calisto - Gryphonrider
Nyx Talonbite- Amazon Crystal Champion of Death By Snu Snu
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