[0.10] Constant Damage Scaling

What is a problem about the 1.3 scenario described below?

  • There is no problem. The 1.3 level of constant damage is just fine.

    Votes: 3 6.4%
  • +Damage (Slayer, Damage Aura) Magic Items are a problem and should be toned down or removed.

    Votes: 38 80.9%
  • "double damage from" Vulnerabilities are a problem and should be toned down or removed.

    Votes: 15 31.9%
  • Weapon Proficiency and Backstab are a problem and should be scaled somehow (maybe not 0.10's method)

    Votes: 18 38.3%
  • High Level Characters are a problem and build should be capped so there is an absolute maximum.

    Votes: 19 40.4%
  • Fighter/Rogue skill choice is a problem; if there were more options people wouldn't buy so much dmg

    Votes: 28 59.6%

  • Total voters
    47

Polare

Count
Alliance Rules
Moderator
Seattle Staff
Good morning playtesters!

I have a couple of questions for folks who are critical of the damage scaling in the 2.0 playtest packet vs. the current 1.3 damage scaling. I'd like to run through some examples and get your honest feedback either way on the possible results.

For the purpose of this discussion, we're talking solely about constant Weapon Proficiency and Backstab damage. Wands are separate issue with separate scaling/discussion challenges (though they are somewhat related).

In 1.3, if I send out a "standard" monster, I'm faced with several challenges in how to scale its Body Point total, including:

- Fully 1/3 to 1/2 of the standard monsters are Undead, with a corresponding "double damage from Earth" vulnerability.
- At least 1/2 of the non-Undead monsters available have a "double damage from..." vulnerability, though (other than pure Foundation elementals) these are not nearly so engaged by the PCs.
- In high level engagements, I have to stat the encounter assuming the PCs have the "double damage" keys available (through activatable per-day Magic Items, spells, or - more often - simple always-on Auras).

A 45th level Fighter will often have at least 20 Weapon Proficiencies in 1.3. With a Longsword, this lets them swing 22s base. With a +3 Damage Aura, that becomes 25s. With an appropriate Slayer aura instead, that becomes 30s. With an appropriate "double damage" Aura, that becomes 50s or 60s.

With a 2H weapon (including bows), they swing 33s. With a +3 Damage Aura, that becomes 36s. With an appropriate Slayer aura instead, that becomes 41s. With an appropriate "double damage" Aura, that becomes 70s or 80s.

This is without including, say, a quiver of Vorpal Arrows, and this is stopping at 20 Profs (there are numerous Fighters with more out there at high level). It's entirely possible (and happens more often than not) for a 50th level Fighter to effectively swing or throw 100+ damage per swing when targeting a Vulnerability, or 50+ when not.

Rogues generally present the same scaling issues, though at somewhat lower opportunity and/or damage (in my experience they spread Build expenditures out a bit more than Fighters on average).

Let's say I have a Fighter, a Rogue, an E Scholar, and a C Scholar on the field against several Undead. If I'm statting the encounter at high level, I have to assume that I'm facing Fighters who will effectively swing 50+ with every single swing - more than the C scholar can throw with their highest level damage spell, and it doesn't cost the Fighter any per-day abilities for each of those swings - they never run out. Even if the Earth scholar is chucking Cure Morts like there's no tomorrow, they'll still run out much faster than the Fighter will.

This leads to "standard" Undead on the field (not "big bad guy" types) with 300+ Body Points, because otherwise with these damage numbers the Fighters (and somewhat the Rogues) just step up and hit them a few times without breaking a sweat - burst damage (from any source) need not apply. This also leads to significantly more takeouts on the field, as they're basically required from anyone *not* swinging 30s or higher to take out a "standard" crunchy target.

I'm fairly sure that some of the commenters in other threads don't see an issue with any of the above. That's one of the choices in the poll you can select! Alternatively, if you feel that some elements of the above are an issue, but others aren't, you can select one or more of the other options.

The current 2.0 packet hits multiple of these areas (+Damage rituals, Aura rituals, scaling Proficiency/Backstab costs) at once.

Thank you for your input, it's helpful to see the views of this community!

-Bryan Gregory
ARC
 

Ruki

Scholar
I think there needs to be some form of WP/BS scaling...is .10 the right answer? Not sure, but it's a step in the right direction.

I also think that skill choice plays as big factor into this as well. I think if I was a straight rouge, I'd only get BS, dodge, assassinate/improved assassinate, and 3 ranks of alchemy. Having more options is always nice!
 

Graham Wolsey

Scholar
Denver Staff
Marshal
Most things about scaling are broken at level 45. The number of prisons thrown by a level 45 celestial caster, the elemental burst pool, etc. This problem is exacerbated by having a level 1 character in that combat.

I think your poll options are really insightful in that it's not any singular issue that is breaking the game, but rather a combination. When you address only one of them you create massive imbalanced in other places. Wands and elemental pool are great examples of this. A lack of options for rogues and fighters besides profs and backstab is another.

The lack of scaling on scholar spell slots is another.

Static attacks scaling and spells not scaling is also an issue. At high levels damage aura isn't an issue at all, though it has a huge impact at low levels. It's a drop in the bucket of the numbers listed above.

I think only looking at the problem cases of high level games does the chapters in the Alliance that aren't struggling with the problems of an uncapped game a disservice to our rules set though.
 

Tevas

Scholar
Marshal
Playtest Community Manager
I currently play a 40+ Fighter who has exclusively purchased Weapon Proficiencies and Parries. Originally I had picked up various Prepare to Die skills, but came to the realization that they were essentially useless in the environments I was playing in, and Forge dropped them. Prepare to Die skills, in their 1.3 form, provide ready notification that can be countered through the use of a 2nd level spell. Additionally, like Magic Armor, Parries can be used by not only the target of your Prepare to Die skill, but by their immediate neighbors as well. So in order to successfully land one, you have to fight through the defenses of your target, as well as their neighbors. Then, as things respawn, they come back with those defenses. When it comes to “boss” monsters, the availability of defenses is often so high, that I could dump my entire Fighter tree into a single enemy and never have anything land. After a certain point, spamming skills that never land begins to feel absolutely meaningless, and the build investment feels wasted. Since changing over, I have only run into two situations in which I’ve ever said, “Hmm...X Fighter skill would have been useful there.”

Is this a problem with scaling, monster design, and local plot issues? Absolutely. Could it be addressed with better plot education? I’m sure it could. But unfortunately there are no mandatory training materials that are implemented Alliance-wide to better prepare staff members to approach these issues. Additionally, plot teams are free to change the monster cards in the database in any way they see fit, so any current changes in v2 to monster body, abilities, or defenses are essentially meaningless in terms of what the live product will look like.

I feel like this issue also stems from the sad state of the Fighter (and Rogue) tree. Yes, most things get defended against, but there also isn’t anything really reliable or interesting to spend build points on. Even if new core skills weren’t added, at least the inclusion of a High Magic themed Martial Prowess / Mastery / Whatever endgame would provide more meaningful opportunities to invest build. Maybe options in those endgame abilities might make the less appealing core skills worth buying, like improvements or augmentations to existing skills. Or maybe provide avenues more conducive to certain playstyles, like “tanks” or great weapon fighters or archers.

When it comes to damage as a whole, I feel like I wouldn’t really have any complaints with the removal of Golems, Reavers, and Slayers. Currently, a character can gain up to +16 damage from a combination of a Golem and a Reaver or Slayer. I would be fine, from a standardization perspective, with seeing Damage Aura become Magic Aura. In doing so, dropping the bonus damage and just allowing the Magic carrier to be used at any time, much like the current Elemental or Earth Aura. I do, however, like that I can currently create a +3 sword and loan it to newer characters so that they can have damage calls that are more competitive. I would be sad to lose resources that could potentially improve the game experience for newer characters.

I dislike “double” or “half” damage, because the idea of doing more math on the fly is silly to me. I would like to see vulnerabilities changed to instead prevent the use of any Smart Defenses against damaging attacks of that element. I feel like that would promote the purchase of Fighter and Rogue skills, and
Celestialists and Earth Casters actually throwing damage.
 

Graham Wolsey

Scholar
Denver Staff
Marshal
Additional note: all skeletal undead take half damage from weapons so the numbers above are very inflated for undead.
 

Saephis

Squire
Like @Tevas , I've purchased nearly exclusively weapon proficiencies and defensive abilities, due to the prevalence of PTD invalidation in nearly every chapter I've attended. While some plot teams have managed to make PTD effects a requisite for certain encounters, they've also been resolved by simply more damage going out or a spell.

As with much of the magic item kerfuffle, fighters/scouts/rogues see their build copied via Damage Aura / Monster Slayer / Racial Reaver, artificially disguising where the problem lies on damage output -- likewise, with a notable number of monster cards having "only effected by magic" defensive abilities, its practically a requirement to build one of those three into a weapon, when made -- if you're using the scroll for an aura, may as well throw on another 20-40 reagents to really use its full potential. Boom, more damage, on most high(er)-level weapons.

There are currently 43 abilities available to a Celestial Caster via spell column choices alone and 40 available to Earth casters -- to reiterate, this is without high magic, potions, etc. Meanwhile, there are 20 "fighting skills" total. If you cut that in half to designate "fighter" and "rogue", there's 10 available, with one being a prerequisite for consistent damage, and easily arguable down to 9 for each. You could semi-argue that the 12 abilities under the "weapon" header could inflate that, however I feel like that's avoiding the point that martial-classes have a laughable lack of actual abilities, and if most PTD-effects are so easy to avoid (Ask yourself how many magic armors you have in a weekend, or can acquire via scrolls, potions, and whatever else) in addition to their one-and-done nature, its pretty elementary to see why the result is "I'll just buy damage" is the outcome.

Moreover, if you look at class disparity, Wands are just a byproduct of "I have more than four times as many choices for abilities, and the freedom to change them" being purchased as skills. Time and time again, the question is asked "Why isn't damage a byproduct of skill purchase?" with the regular answer "There aren't enough skills". Other skills have been proposed, many to address the aircraft carrier sized holes in a fighter/scout/rogue's ability to actually maintain their "job" in a battle (Hold a line, harry flanks, stab-and-dash, whatever) -- also, to be discarded out of hand.

In short:
  • Get rid of Build-duplicative rituals like Damage Aura, Monster Slayer, and Racial Reaver
  • Bring in more Fighter/Scout/Rogue abilities
  • Increase the usefulness of PTD effects / decrease their ability to avoid
  • Make damage a byproduct of build spent *to the same value of wands*
    • Additionally, remove the "Elemental" carrier of Wands and make them unlimited charges
  • Or leave Weapon Proficiency and Backstab alone.
 

Ruki

Scholar
Would changing PTD skills to be 'elemental' ('Prepare To Die, elemental shatter shield' for example) make it so that they are more potent in battle?
 

Saephis

Squire
Would changing PTD skills to be 'elemental' ('Prepare To Die, elemental shatter shield' for example) make it so that they are more potent in battle?
While bumping the caster-defensive up from 2nd to 6th would be nice, I'm not sure how it would fit thematically. Changing Magic Armor to be in line with current-Evade would be better, I feel, leaving Prison, Parry, and Riposte as the defensive measures that come to mind.

I'd still advocate for removing Disarm at 1 for casters -- "Prepare to Die" -> "Put that down" is pretty common, and one that can be mass-spell-stored (Looking at @Polare and the 20+ he's normally got).
 

MaxIrons

Squire
Oregon Staff
Marshal
I want to be more explicit in my choices as I think there is some nuance lost on the poll pretty easily.
Format: Topic - (answer) - reason

There is no problem. The 1.3 level of constant damage is just fine. - (No) - I have encountered exactly what you have described and had 40's being thrown from a bow at a monster I was marshaling. This is just... if I give them enough body to be a big bad that gives a good fight, even with loads of minions on the field, that amount of constant damage means I have to put out something with thousands of body for it to be a long fight. This is just.... ugh. High level monster minions end up with hundreds of body... for minions. It breaks evocation. It makes a fight with an insanely wide spread of damage outputs a nightmare to scale effectively. It encourages take-out effects over damage. It is IMO one of the big three broken parts of 1.3 (PCs with Monster Abilities, MI replication of build, and stonking huge damage numbers).

"double damage from" Vulnerabilities are a problem and should be toned down or removed. - (N0) - This is something that is so easily plot controlled that I don't see a problem.

+Damage (Slayer, Damage Aura) Magic Items are a problem and should be toned down or removed. - (Yes) - This exacerbates the problem in two ways. First, and lesser, it takes said 45th level fighter and swings go from 22 to 30, meaning that monsters are killed in roughly 2/3 the basic attacks. That's too much. It means that I have to choose between scaling for the big fighters having these and risking them not having them - thus making the fight 1/3 harder than intended, or I scaling for them not having them and risking them having them on the field, making the fight 1/3 easier than intended (the better option IMO, as respawning is an on the fly scaling option then). Second, and greater in my opinion, it allows an absolutely new player on a low level mod to destroy it. If I create a mod for brand new players, but one of them has a staff gobbied slayer - they're taking five hit monsters and downing them in one hit. It's the same scaling problem above, but now instead of 1/3 difference, you're looking at 4/5 difference. It's crazy. Of note, I have this same problem with how Crit Attack/Back Attack are being used in 0.10e. They're essentially a better Damage Aura for 10 minutes. I'm horrified at how I'm going to need to scale for this. See the next point for more on this.

Weapon Proficiency and Backstab are a problem and should be scaled somehow (maybe not 0.10's method) - (Yes) / Fighter/Rogue skill choice is a problem; if there were more options people wouldn't buy so much dmg - (Yes) - These two are entwined. In 1.3 I cannot purchase any Fighter/Rogue skill without purchasing W.P./Backstabs. I *must* increase my base damage to do utility. If I want more slays, or parries, or stun limbs, I have to add numbers to my damage. 0.10 has the same problem in that you still have build purchase prerequisites, which means that I can't make a specialist. I have to add to my damage output, or take blacksmithing, as those are the only things without a build prerequisite to take. If I don't like the burst damage nature of Critical Attacks and don't want to do crafting skills, again, the only option to get any type of utility is to keep throwing build at W.P. no matter how inefficient this may be.

Secondly, the problem isn't that Fighter/Rogue damage goes up at an additional cost per damage added, it's that they're the only classes that do so. I understand the design repercussions if that was done for all classes however: If it was true across the board, it would make specialization of any type the "bad" option from an optimization viewpoint. Eventually we all become jack-of-all trades unless there was a similar increase in cost per rank in a new skill after the first X number of skills you purchase as well to discourage that. It's a problem that can best be solved by the final point.

High Level Characters are a problem and build should be capped so there is an absolute maximum. - (Yes) - At the end of the day, if characters are allowed to continue amassing power, whatever the source - a system cannot accommodate both them and new players effectively, on a long enough time-line. You can do a hard cap for rituals/build, past which you just can't get something else without sacrificing something you already have, or you can make it increasingly more difficult to get more power to such an extent that it is effectively capped by the fact that are humans with finite lifespans. The build accrual system we have in place for 1.3 is an attempt at the second option (multiple events for 1 build for certain high level characters), but it plateaus too late, resulting in too large a spread of power (1st and 45th level characters in the same event, or even worse, the same field fight).


>.> I may have been thinking on this off and on for a loooong time.
 

Inaryn

Knight
I voted two options that I think I need to explain my thoughts on.

First, prof/stab scaling. I think they scale too quickly now, and monster defenses to the specials makes that damage more attractive. However, the proposed changes I feel go too far in balancing that.

Similarly, I don't necessarily think the game needs a lot more special skills... just for them to be more attractive. (Some skill adds are fine, but the need for mettle is just a band aid rather than an actual analysis of the problem.)

I proposed elsewhere that perhaps profs/stabs should scale more in a manner like spell costs. Pure classes would be able to buy them at a 1,1,2,2,3,3,4,4,5 times cost scale, capping at 5 and becoming static at that point.
Hybrids would then get 1,1,2,3,3,4,5,5,6 scaling.

I think it would be worthwhile for ARC to examine the scaling of that damage progression and see if it meets the reduced numbers need without also feeling like it goes too far.

Similarly, if specials landed more often, I think players would feel like they were more worth taking. To that end, breaking out building slay/assassinate into more charges and more damage is one of the things I think the proposed rules have gotten right.
 
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MondayMcGee

Scholar
San Francisco Staff
I'm coming at this from the perspective of a low-mid level character. (I'm coming up to level 15 soon, and our chapter's APL is around 20.)

The problem I have experienced is not one of scaling for high-level content outright, but of what happens when you throw lower-level players into the mix. There are a couple of common paradigms I have experienced:

"You must be this tall to ride this ride"
: A lower level character ends up in a fight that, for whatever reason, they can't meaningfully interact with. Maybe the creatures are immune to everything but carriers the PC doesn't have. Maybe even the crunchies can take the PC down in one hit. Maybe the thing has a couple hundred body and you're throwing twos or fours or sixes. I've been here, and it sucks. (@MaxIrons' post definitely shed some light on how easy it is to end up creating this situation accidentally.) Damage aura and similar rituals can be really helpful for lower level players to bridge this gap, but that doesn't work if all of the high-level players have all those rituals too. I don't necessarily think the rituals themselves are a problem, it's the fact that a lot of high level folks have huge ritual stockpiles. I'm really glad to see a ritual cap in the latest rules set, and I think a lower cap would be even better.

"Go sit at the kids table": While having level appropriate encounters is a great thing, it can also cause some problems. First, it's really easy to default to having the low-level content be inconsequential. Everyone wants to have a hand in taking down the Big Bad, and it can be frustrating when you feel like you are locked out of meaningful participation in that, and instead are stuck with something that doesn't matter to the story. It also makes it difficult for people to form groups of varying levels -- if my high-level friend that brought me into the game feels like he has to opt out of a mod so that I can have fun, that's a problem. This is a problem that can be dealt with by clever plotting, sure, but I'd rather see the creative energies of the plot team put into an amazing story, rather than into wrestling the system. Here, I think a level cap is the answer. If the gap can only get so large, it's easier for Plot teams to write content that's appropriate for everybody.

"Here, let me get that for you"
: This is the flip side of the above issue. If there's a wide spread of PC levels on the field, it means that a given enemy is going to be utterly trivial for some players, and impossible to engage with for others. Even if there's a mix of monster levels on the field, you're going to run into instances where highbies just steamroller the smaller crunchies. This is both frustrating for lower-level players (there's nothing left that they can meaningfully fight) and boring for high-level ones (whack-a-mole is neither challenging nor interesting). Again, a level cap would make it so that there are enemies that are more and less difficult, but ideally neither trivial nor impossible.

Overall, my feeling is that it's less any specific issue of build progression, number of takeouts, etc, that's the problem, but rather the fact that the gap between new and experienced players is so enormous. A level cap and a stricter ritual cap would go a long way towards solving this problem, in my book.
 

Samyania

Scholar
Seattle Staff
I really think your ECL conflicts can be way more readily addressed with staff and other player awareness of their roles than with widespread statting, @MondayMcGee (maybe not the rits). I don't think it's "wrestling the system" at all to have, for instance, the lower-level PCs on a stealth mod to disable the McGuffin and/or assassinate the Big Bad while the high-level PCs take on wave after wave of crunchies as distraction so Team Assassin doesn't have to (to use an example that appeared in Seattle).

Similarly, I think you don't need build fixes to stop high-level PCs from steamrolling encounters. I think you need high-level PCs to be able to realize what isn't their fight (and to be able to distinguish quickly!), and to self-select not to go over there unless people are actively dying and/or asking for your help. I like having the option to ask for help from Sir/Dame/Knight Candidate Steamroll (although I'm usually standing behind them to begin with).

I don't think it's a struggle or inconvenient or too hard for a plot team to plan for a variety of levels, and I think if it is, you should probably bring on people who can help you o that. If you're not running in a capped chapter (its own kettle of fish), then it's your obligation to be able to plan for all of Fortannis.

I think a build cap will lose a lot of friends I and my PC don't want to lose, and the world will be a more boring, shallower place without their decades of hilarious misadventures to draw on. I categorically think build caps are a bad idea, and the problems they ostensibly solve can be solved by savvy plot teams and conscious PCs.
 

Tantarus

Squire
I think taking out free profs in the form of Reaver/slayer/da (and golems) is a bit step in teh right direction, Watching scholars swing 10s always bothered me.

Double damage effects should also be more limited. Magic weapons should be limited to 1 aura. The battle magic versions should be made to self only buffs. Making them more of a hybrid friendly spell, but still doubling a scholars damage as well vs there type.

Taking away easy access to double damaging carriers for fighters/scouts/rogues seems like it solves a big chunk of this problem.

I also dont think static damage exists in a bubble. If you nerf cloaks/banes for melee, you make them alot more handleable for monsters. Personally I would love to see a magic item nerf happen first and see where melee is at after that. Maybe they are too strong and need a further nerf, hard to know.

Failing that, I think a wand like scaling for there build spent on fighter skills would be good. Increase the cost of the daily skills and remove prereqs to many of them.

What I think is the worst possible answer is the one in 2.0. A weird scaling that makes it confusing for new people. And subjects just melee classes to diminishing returns on build spent while casters scale perfectly forever.
 

Darkcrescent

Knight
Chicago Staff
Marshal
I can’t echo this sentiment fiercely enough.
100% right. Maybe add reverse thresholds to creatures so only swings under 8 or spells under 4th hit it. Just needs creativity :)
 

MondayMcGee

Scholar
San Francisco Staff
That's totally fair, @Samyania. I recognize that my opinion is in the minority on this, just thought it would be good to add another perspective. Because, as much as I do think that our plot teams are savvy and our PCs mindful, for the most part, I still have experienced the frustrations I posted about quite a bit. I don't think that anyone is operating in bad faith, but dealing with a power gap of this magnitude is a very difficult challenge.

My game design opinions are not everyone's game design opinions, though. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
 

MaxIrons

Squire
Oregon Staff
Marshal
@Samyania I also know how much extra difficulty goes into running encounters of that nature. There are a lot of tricks as you mention, but it is "wrestling" with the system. What you speak of are effective techniques plot teams and good PC ettiqutte have come up with to compensate for the situation. It does have a cost though, it means that you either need a larger NPC presence, double hooking (I am more thankful than I can express to anyone who does either), or a chunk of the player base is excluded from plot driven content for a non-trivial part of the event. Splitting the town for battles is effectively imposing (however briefly) a flexible build cap, which tells me that _if_ we want the goal to be all people playing an event from level 1 first game to level "yes" who have been consistently playing since NERO days... power caps of some variety are the way to do it. If that's not a design goal, that's fine too, but we then can't honestly claim that it is a goal.
 

Alavatar

Baron
From my perspective, I have seen a lot of "X is too high" complaints over the years. Yet, "Put a cap on it" is never received well as the answer.

I don't understand that. In lieu of a simple cap (cap damage, cap spells, build cap, ritual cap, defensive cap, level disparity, etc.) the solutions implemented tend to turn into complex work around or soft caps. If you just cap things a player can achieve then many things can be simplified.
 
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