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Clarifications of Intent on 2.0 changes

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Polare

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Alliance Rules
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Good afternoon!

I've been asked to cross-post this post from the PTC forum. Hopefully you find it helpful and informative about some of the decisions and direction for the ARB 2.0!

Note: This has been lightly edited for context from the PTC forum

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I've been reached out to privately by a number of PTCs about questions of intent on some of the changes. I'm copying some of those questions and answers here, in the hopes that it will help illuminate why some of these changes were made (as I know there's been a number of questions about that from players). PTCs should feel free to ask more of these types of questions, though I don't guarantee that I'll answer them all, and I might adjust some answers over time if other ARC members or Owners tell me I'm speaking crazy talk :) Note also that some of the 2.0 changes came directly upon Owner request, and I can't necessarily speak to the intent behind those though I'll do my best to interpret Owner desires as I understand them.

Individual Playtesters with questions about these items should raise them through the Playtest Community Manager.

Please note that this is *not* intended to develop into a debate on intent or reasoning behind specific changes. The Feedback Form is the best way to submit your feedback as to how various items were implemented; I don't think that going back and forth on the intent here is a valuable use of time and resources. We really appreciate responses from Playtests in the feedback form and have evolved the 2.0 proposed ruleset after each round; please submit your responses there as we can best collect and evaluate feedback from that form.

On to some of the specifics...

What did the ARC see as the primary issues with the Alliance 1.2 Ruleset? What were some of the ultimate design goals of the new system to combat these problems, and how were the playtest changes developed in hopes of achieving these corrections?
The drive to go to 2.0 came originally from the Owners, not ARC, and revolved around correcting the many, many inconsistencies and exceptions in the ruleset. After discussion with the Owners, ARC expanded the scope in an aim to make the game friendlier to new players and remove redundancies as well as exceptions. Over many many years the game had had pieces added on and added on without any fundamental changes, resulting in a lot of bloat and confusion that both makes the game more difficult for no reason and turns new players away. Finally, where possible, we wanted to encourage more teamwork among players where especially the high-level game has become dominated by "do everything at once" characters.

Average static melee damage has gone down through the removal of Master Construct, Damage Aura, Reavers and Slayers, and the mounting costs of purchasing multiple Weapon Proficiencies and Backstabs. At the same time, the overall potential for burst or "on demand" damage has gone significantly up due to Critical Attack, Back Attack, Improved Slay and Improved Assassinate changes along with the introduction of Empowered Warrior. What was the design philosophy behind these changes, and what was the ARC hoping to achieve for the game overall?
Body point bloat on monsters has increased over time significantly to keep up with the incredibly high numbers players can put out now (compared to fifteen or even ten years ago). I have a copy of the base Monster Manual from 15 years ago, when 200 body was considered a "huge monster". Now, that same monster would probably be statted with 500+ body, due to the overwhelming amount of high constant damage attacks throughout the day (fighters and rogues regularly swinging 20s or 30s, C casters throwing wand packets for 15s or 20s) to last as long as they did back then in a fight.

At the same time, players feel that the fight is more special and socially "cooler" when they land a big damage call. It pulls the attention of everyone in the fight when you hear a 100 point slay or an Eviscerate and gives a significant feeling of reward when something like that lands. We want players to have more of those "cool moments" and less of the "grind the monsters down through swinging huge numbers over and over for an hour straight" fights. We also want NPCing to become more approachable by simply scaling the numbers down. It's still no fun to ask someone to keep track of 300 body instead of 500, but it's proportionally easier (and much easier at the lower end of scaling).

ARC is recommending that NPC Body Point values be slashed by approximately 40% (give or take) across the board. The intent is that constant damage takes about as many swings as it did before to take a monster down, but burst damage feels more rewarding and valued. In an environment where Plot can always add more monsters to a battle, players can feel more rewarded for landing those big blows or big spells and taking something out instead of just chunking yet another 40 points of damage into it that it ignores.

Stun Limb as a spell is 8th level, but Wither is 4x more effective and 2 levels lower. Even Bind does more than Stun Limb. Is there something we're missing as to why it's 8th level?
Defenses, legality, and ease of removal. Wither, as Necromancy, *should* be better. Stun Limb is very difficult to remove - you either wait the 10 minutes or get a Dispel or Purify; nothing else fixes it. Bind is easily ripped from by most monsters or removed by a Release. Last of all, in the standard Monster DB, there lots of things which can Resist or are flat out immune to Binding. Eldritch Force, however, has very little that can resist it and almost nothing is flat out immune to Stun Limb. So in summary it's (a) much easier to get to stick, and (b) much more difficult to remove once it lands.

Maximum armor values have significantly increased, and access to higher value armor has been facilitated through stacking and materials bonuses. With the decrease in static damage, what was the design concept behind the higher average armor value that will be present on the field? What changes to the flow of combat does the ARC envision as result of these new values? Personally, I feel with the removal of item based healing available through Expanded Enchantment that this would be a necessary change, however I am curious how ARC feels this will affect gameplay as a whole. Is there a concern that if players are no longer taking sufficient damage so as to bypass armor that the role of a healer will be devalued?
This was specifically requested by several Owners; it was not a proposal that originated with ARC. That said, we're in favor of how it came out. Armor values are something that rewards players for really getting invested into the game world and we want to make sure that the results of, for example, coming up with a cool suit of plate mail feel worth it. In some ways, more armor on the field - and a more immersive feeling to the game - becomes its own reward.

I will note that some part of this is due to the widespread prevalence of Arcane Armor. As a Customer Service issue, there's no appetite to remove this ritual, however, it's also recognized that it has widely supplanted physical armor to the detriment of immersiveness. By upping the armor cap and making physical armor substantially better than Arcane Armor in several ways, without making Arcane Armor worthless, we hope to find a middle ground that encourages physical armor more without making AA useless.

In terms of combat flow, we feel this fits in well with the changes noted above. Armor points give PCs a way to deal with similar 'burst damage vs constant damage' changes on NPCs, by providing them an easily renewable pool of points to soak some of the burst damage without going down right away. Combined with Intercept, we also feel it gives players who want specialize in the role of a tank a better way to do so (after all, they still have to spend substantial build in Wear Extra Armor to take a suit of max armor). We don't feel that healers will be disadvantaged; quite to the contrary, with the ritual changes and the spell tree changes (healing at every level!) we think Healers will be much higher valued in 2.0 than they are in 1.2.

Is there any chance of getting some racial perk for humans? With all negatives removed from other races, their race is really in a sad state. Reduced cost of educational skills was bantered about here (ie, read/write, read magic, first aid, herbal lore, and merchant).
ARC's view is that the lack of racial physreps is still a huge draw for many players. Across the Alliance, Human is one of the most widely played (if not *the* most widely played) races. Unless we see those numbers decline relative to other races, we'll still feel pretty firmly that they don't need a bonus - players clearly want to play Humans as they are. I will also point out that races are balanced somewhat against their required physreps; those are considered "negatives" along with double cost for Read Magic, inability to use Celestial items, stacking body penalties, etc. etc.

Similar spell effects have been consolidated or removed, such as those in the Binding and Alteration trees. While this certainly streamlines the effect group, it may make certain playstyles unfeasible (Bindomancer) or create an undue burden on lower level characters. For example, Pin is a strong 2nd level spell choice, provided the creature in question is unable to rip free from it. It is a powerful go to defense for lower level casters and can help manage fights in which players are outnumbered or flanked. Slow has been added in its place, but unfortunately does not prevent creatures from remaining in melee combat, as they can simply walk to keep within weapon range of the players' line.
ARC feels that the changes around Binding are working as intended and continue to have very powerful (though previously underutilized) low-level effects. Specifically, Repel remains at 2nd level and is one of the strongest 'control' spells in the entire game, being unRippable and nearly unfixable once landed. The same goes for Slow; it can't be ripped from and thus is almost guaranteed to last a full 10 minutes instead of the 3 seconds most Pin spells last in 1.2. A good team can exploit the Slow effect well by working together to move the combat; this is a great example where we think that players who work on their teamwork will find Slow to be more powerful than Pin as they develop their skills over time. I'd definitely encourage players to find uses for Slow and Repel where they might have used a Pin before; they're both very powerful spells for their level when a team coordinates on how they'll fight together (so is Shun, for that matter).

With the removal of Expanded Enchantment, certain group compositions that relied on item based healing may be unfeasible. For example, if a group of friends were part of the Celestial Guild, they may no longer be able to go on modules themselves because healing will be cumbersome or unavailable. While potions are still an option, they are finite and can be expensive if used constantly. They must also be physically retrieved individually, and require an additional 3 second action to administer, as opposed to the tactically superior activation of an item. Furthermore, with the availability of healing being limited to potions and memory, does the ARC have a concern that such resources could be quickly diminished, resulting in certain groups or individuals being unable to enjoy access to module content due to a lack of healing? While personally I feel that the current armor changes may help alleviate this somewhat, there are still situations and groups to which it may not apply (see Celestial Guild example).
The Magic Item change is the biggest one in 1.2 in my opinion. Over time (especially accelerated in the last five or so years), Expanded Enchantment has become one of the biggest crutches of characters across the Alliance. As a game that wants to promote teamwork as the arbiter of success, Expanded Enchantment made entire classes of characters essentially worthless at higher level. When teams can rely on their 6-column equivalent in magic items instead of including a healer, something is wrong with the core of the game - and a number of chapters were already there, while others were headed in that direction.

Similarly, the rituals that create power every day at no cost (Expanded Enchantment, Damage Aura, Cloak, Bane, etc.) had no limits in place. A high-level character had no reason to not pick up every such magic item they found - if you have 50 Cloaks, well, 51 is even better! This does not promote teamwork, nor does it promote a balanced and fair playing field. Magic Items also wildly overshadow Production items currently, and across the Alliance, Production-based characters have (by and large) not had a rewarding play experience in many years. Finally, it can be extremely disheartening to newer players to feel completely outclassed not by another player but by another player's magic items alone.

If you look over the Ritual changes in the packet, you'll see that they're generally designed around the transfer or transformation of power instead of creating power. There are still numerous ways to transfer Healing spells from one player to another within the span of a day. For example, a fighter with a Spell Store can purchase some Healing spells from a healer back in town so that they're still armed with activatable healing for their upcoming mod. Similarly, a scholar can imbue Healing spell strikes into someone else's weapon with the right ritual. Finally, we *want* more players to feel that they're rewarded for sinking Skill Points into Production skills (instead of a current widespread feeling that those points are 'wasted').

More than anything, though, we want to make sure that teams are rewarded for including a variety of characters. This is entirely intentional and we strongly feel that it will make the game better over time. It's a big change right now, though, there's no doubt about that. Plot teams will have to take things easy for some time and drastically change how they scale monsters with this change, but that itself is a good thing - NPCs will be easier to play, especially for newer players, once the scaling is figured out.

At the end of the day, characters should absolutely need other characters' assistance to thrive in Alliance.
 
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