Scholar vs. Archer Damage Comparison


Considering the current discussion around damage scaling, here is a chart I made to compare the damage output of caster and archer classes (these I thought were the most comparable because they both throw packets). This chart allows you to change assumptions and see how that affects the results (the google sheet is set to allow others to comment only; I think you should be able to make a copy of the sheet if you want to change assumptions; let me know if that doesn't work)

The parameters you can change are as follows:

Battles Per Logistics Period - Number of battles in each logistics period. A battle is assumed to last short enough that a CA batch will extend through the entire battle. Thus each "battle" can be a whole battle or a 10-minute period of a longer battle.

Arrows Used Per Battle - Number of arrows an archer uses in each battle (or each 10 minute period of a longer battle)

Arrow Hit Rate - Fraction of arrows that hit.

Spell/Wand Hit Rate - Fraction of spell/wand charges that hit (this is generally higher than the arrow hit rate, since spell/wand charges can't be blocked by shields or weapons but arrows can)

Effective Takeout Damage - Maximum health of a typical monster, such that doing this much damage to the monster is effectively a takeout. Damage dealt in excess of this in one attack is assumed to be ineffective (e.g. a 200-point slay is not any better than a 100-point slay, if the monsters have 100 hit points) and a takeout effect such as Prison counts as this much damage.

Scroll/Arrow Cost Multiplier: Multiplier of production cost that scrolls/arrows can be acquired at.

Prison Use Fraction: Scholars are normally assumed to use only the evocation bolts, but it is assumed that this fraction of the 9th level spells are Prisons rather than evocation bolts. This represents the fact that scholars have takeout effects that they can use instead of damage. For simplicity this spreadsheet only models Prisons; in the real game there are takeouts other than Prison (this makes takeouts more effective), but also monsters might be able to rip free or resist some takeouts (which makes them less effective).

Potency Use Fraction: Fraction of the spells cast at a time that a scholar has a Potency ritual active.

The different classes modeled are as follows:

Column Caster - Celestial scholar who buys nothing but spell columns. (Note this assumes 1 spell column per 25 build; the calculation may be slighhtly inaccurate below 100 build because you can't actually have 3 or fewer full spell columns)
Burst Caster - Celestial scholar who buys 4 spell columns, then switches to just buying formal levels and putting everything into Elemental Burst.
Prof/CA Archer - Archer who buy just Profs and CAs. He starts buying profs until it is no longer efficient to buy profs and then switches to buying CAs, then he goes back to buying profs again once he is getting close to having more CAs than he can use (because even using a 10 CA batch every battle won't use up all his CAs)
Slay/Evi Archer - Archer who buys the maximum amount of Slays and Eviscerates. He buys Improved Slay up to the point where the extra slay damage would be superfluous (because it would exceed the "Effective Takeout Damage").

Note that in order to model the fact that archers need to use arrows but casters don't, this spreadsheet calculates the cost of the arrows the archer would use and assumes that the caster is spending the same amount of money on 5th level damage scrolls (thus, the comparison is between archers and scholars who are spending the same amount on production items; the archer is spending it on arrows while the scholar is spending it on damage scrolls)

Spreadsheet is here:


This seems like an excellent tool to help drive balancing. As a note, the base sheet has an archer shooting 350 arrows a day, or 700 arrows in a weekend. This seems high.
Only seems a little bit high to me. If I don't have at least 600 arrows at the start of the weekend, I feel uncomfortable about my total supply.

However, I do think the 50% hit rate vs. 70% hit rate is wrong. As someone who plays an archer, I can attest that weapons almost never block arrows. That really leaves shields as the only difference and I can basically ignore shields by not shooting at targets wielding shields. Monster camp rarely sends out a lot of NPCs with shields (for various reasons including a lack of actual phys reps). Thus, I can basically be near 100% effective in most battles without ever shooting at a target carrying shield.

The other assumptions in this are pretty wacky, too. Celestial casters rarely memorize all damage spells, or even close to all damage spells, nor do they tend to purchase damage scrolls in bulk. Sure, they probably have a few on hand due to past treasure pulls, but very few PCs actually walk around with a tree full of celestial damage in memory and damage scrolls comparable in cost the arrows of a dedicated archer. It really is a highly unrealistic scenario, which makes the comparison not very helpful. Comparing theoretical maximums that don't meaningful reflect how the game is actually played isn't particularly valuable to determining balance.

Even more curious to me is the fact that the OP didn't mention wands once. Wands are the primary way that celestial casters deal damage. And, unlike with spells, you don't need to guesstimate how many wand charges are focused towards damage as opposed to other uses. All wand charges are focused towards damage, unless something like a paragon path offers an alternate option. The wand vs. archery comparison seems like the obvious comparison to me, yet for some reason the OP completely ignored it.



Last edited:


Thank you for your comments. (Note: Previous version had math error where I didn't take into account miss chance for scrolls. This has been corrected; doesn't significantly change the plots. Also, changed arrows used per battle from 70 to 60 due to feedback that the previous number was too high)

I may not have made my intentions clear in the initial post: this spreadsheet is not intended to be the end of a discussion on balance, but rather the start of one. There are definitely factors not included in this chart; the point here is to separate the damage calculation from these other factors. See discussion farther down below.

Some responses to comments:

- This spreadsheet is designed to allow you to input your own assumptions regarding hit rate, number of arrows used, etc. If you don't agree with the numbers I used, feel free to change the numbers and see how that affects the results. Part of the purpose of this spreadsheet is to help you see what the balance is most sensitive to - e.g. how does increasing the number of battles affect wizards vs. archers?

- This is intended for all level ranges. The graph shows damage output as a function of BP expended in fighter skills (for archers) or spell trees/high magic (for wizards) for all values of BP from 25 to 400.

- The calculation for scholars does include wand damage. This is the "Wand" column of the charts. Note that the line graph is of total damage output including scrolls and wands.

- "Celestial casters don't use lots of scrolls so it doesn't make sense to assume that": This may be true. However, note that archers are *required* to expend lots of arrows to be effective, while scholars can *choose* to buy scrolls or something else. So let's say an archer and a scholar both get the same amount of treasure over the course of a day, but the archer has to spend let's say 3 gold on arrows, while the scholar doesn't need to. So the scholar has 3 more gold to spend on something else. The scholar *could* spend those 3 gold on scrolls, or he could spend it on something else entirely. If he spends it on the scrolls then he will get extra damage output as indicated in the chart. If he spends it on something else, he must be getting *even more* value out of that gold than the scrolls (otherwise he would have spend it on scrolls). So you should think of the value listed under "scrolls" in the chart as a *lower bound* on how much extra value the scholar is getting by not needing to spend money on arrows.

- "Celestial scholars don't memorize all damage spells": This is true. However, the same comment above applies. Archers *only* do damage (except for things like disarm and stun limb); scholars have a choice. A scholar could, if he wanted to, choose to memorize all damage spells and do the listed amount of damage. If a scholar chooses to memorize something else, that means the scholar is getting *even more value* out of whatever else he is memorizing than the damage. So again, you can think of the value listed under "spells" in the chart as a *lower bound* on the value of the spells for the scholar.

- Hit rates for spells vs. arrows: This is a matter of personal experience. When I played an archer in San Francisco's v2 playtest (I play an earth scholar normally) I *definitely* noticed it being harder to hit with arrows than with spells. There were like 5 NPCs and often 2-3 of them had shields and the ones that didn't have shields were behind the ones that did, so often there was not an unshielded target that was easy to attack. And some of the NPCs were skilled enough to physically block arrows with their weapons, so even when I did get an unshielded target out in the open I often had to get fairly close, aim specifically at the side of their body opposite where their weapon was, and even do "pump-fakes" at times in order to land hits. And even if I do aim at an unshielded target, if there's a shielded target next to them he can reach his shield over to block the arrow. But again, maybe the playtest battles were just atypical in this regard. Also, note that even if arrows couldn't be blocked by shields or weapons, you would still expect a lower hit rate for arrows than spells just because there are more of them: if an archer shoots 50 arrows in a battle and a scholar uses 10 spells, then probably the scholar is taking the 10 best shot opportunities, while the archer is taking those opportunities plus the 11th-50th best shot opportunities in the battle, which are by definition less likely to hit.


Here are some factors not included in the damage calculation that affect scholar vs. archer balance:


- Archer damage is spread out over more separate attacks, thus is less likely to be blocked by defenses.
- Archers have more body and possible armor.
- Archers can use Healing Blade to give their attacks the "Healing" carrier, while celestial scholars cannot; this helps archers when fighting undead.


- Scholars have much more ability to do "burst damage" than archers do. That is, even if scholars and archers do the same amount of damage over the course of a day, scholars have much more ability to burn lots of resources to do lots of damage over a period of a few seconds. This helps scholars in several ways:
--- Scholars can conserve resources during relatively easy fights in order to save the resources for the toughest fights. Since the PCs win the vast majority of fights, being able to do extra damage when you "would have won anyway" is much less valuable than being able to do lots of damage in the few situations where it could mean the difference between victory and defeat.
--- Within a given fight, scholars can more easily do burst damage to take out a high priority target who leaves himself open for a few seconds, while archers have a harder time capitalizing on that opportunity.
--- Scholars can be more threatening. When I was playing an archer during the playtest, I realized I had very little ability to "cover" an area: an NPC could rush me, take the one or two hits I threw, and force me to retreat. If I was a scholar, those few hits would do a lot more damage, which might mean the monster might think twice about rushing me.
- Scholars have much more ability to deal with resistances and vulnerabilities to damage types. Scholars can switch their damage type pretty much at will, while archers can only do so if they have the appropriate ritual and spend a ritual charge.
- As mentioned above, while archers can pretty much only do damage except for a few abilities, scholars have the ability to throw lots of effects other than damage.
- Again as mentioned above, archers have to spend money on arrows, while scholars can spend that extra money on anything they want.


Other comments on assumptions the spreadsheet makes:

- The fields "Effective Spell Ability Utilization Rate" and "Effective Fighter Ability Utilization Rate" represent the fraction of the time that a given spell slot or fighter ability slot eventually hits during a Logistics Period, given that a slot can miss, be meditated back, then miss again, be meditated back, and so on until it finally hits. This is based on assuming that if there are N fights left to go in the Logistics Period (including the current one), that the player uses a fraction 1/N of their remaining slots, and after the battle meditates back all slots that missed.

- You may note that the calculation assumes that the scholar has access to Potency, while it doesn't assume the archer has access to any rituals. This does "tip the scales" in favor of the Scholar; however, also note that Scholars have more ritual use points than fighters, and that Scholars can change their damage type for free while archers need to use a ritual to change their damage type, plus archers probably want an Enhanced Quiver while scholars don't need it. So maybe you could think of it this way: the sheet assumes that the archer is buying the damage type changing ritual and enhanced quiver, while the scholar doesn't need those so he buys Potency instead. However, I am interested in incorporating the effects of rituals into this spreadsheet so I am interested in your feedback as to what you think the most important rituals for each class are. Then we could do this in a more rigorous way: assume a certain number of rituals for each class and think about what they might be spending them on.


So my overall conclusion is that it seems to me that celestial scholars are much better than archers especially at high levels, but even too at low levels. At medium levels (e.g. 200 BP spent) the scholar is doing only about 20% less damage as the archer, but has lots of other advantages not mentioned in the spreadsheet as described above. Basically, I think that in the current 0.9 rules, if the goal is "archer does lots of sustained output damage, celestial is good for burst damage and other effects" then the current system fails: the archer only does slightly more in terms of sustained output, but the celestial scholar does a lot more in terms of the burst damage and other effects.
I would like to challenge some of your assumptions.

1 - Archer damage is invested in skills that apply to all weapons, and therefor they have several options available other than throwing arrows, namely melee weapons (bows are excellent blocking tools) and thrown weapons, which I posit are an underappreciated resource for many characters.

2 - Archers can apply contact poisons to their arrows which can significantly increase their versatility and damage.

3 - I personally have never said that my goal was to make C-Scholars better at burst and Archers better at sustained damage. I would instead say that C-Scholars have access to a versatile toolkit that is heavily slanted offensive, and an Archer has a modestly narrow scope in comparison but has the advantage of significant additional staying power. When your Body is 0, so is your DPS.


In my experience as an archer, I have had plenty of my arrows batted down, swatted away with a punch block or just not felt do to the distance of the attack and distraction of attacks from other PCs.

Playing an Archer is much a kin to playing a Rouge. I have to fight the flanks and engage the odd angles. If my line doesn't press the attack then I am near useless.

Coatings are useful but only if you are on good terms with an Alchemist and have the coin to pay for it. Using range against your target also means you are away from the downed enemy and loot potential.

Now I see sustained damage as the plus side, because I can carry a crap ton of arrows as long as I have the space.

Something that I didn't hear mention of is defenses. My arrow is negated by a far larger number of defenses as compared to spells.

I went Earth Templar as I realized that Archery was not something that worked on its own. Bindo-mancy and Protectives turned my Fighter into more of a Offensive Support character then the Ranged Attacker that envisioned.

I dunno if that helps at all but those are my experiences as an archer.