Psychochild's Blog

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21 November, 2011

Weekend Design Challenge: Balancing with odds and ends
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 4:34 PM
(This post has been viewed 1492 times.)

In the continuing saga of one peron's mission to turn the d20 system into a classless system, we find ourselves with a question of balance. We've got a foundation laid, let's take the next steps toward our goal.

I promised some talk about balancing, but we have a few odds and ends first.

Skillful or not?

I forgot to cover skills last week. This is pretty easy with our Character Points system from last time. By default, everyone gets 2 + Int Mod skill ranks to add to their skills, to a minimum of one skill point per level. One Character Point translates into one skill rank. These values are multiplied by 4 at first level. A character can only have (3 + character level) maximum ranks in a skill, so the feats that give bonuses to skills are still useful.

What about class skills vs. cross-class skills? For now, we'll punt on that. We'll treat all skills as in-class since we're going classless. One option might be to tie skills to feats taken. So, if you want Disable Device as a "class skill" you'd have to take the "Trapfinding" feat (based on the class ability from Rogues in the base game system).

It's magic!

Last week, DamianoV wrote, "Curious to see how spell-casting gets worked into all this, now..." I had forgotten to make that explicit, so let's cover it.

This is going to be handled by using feats. I identified four different types of magic. Let's create feats for those:

Divine Spellcasting [General] (2 Feats)

Benefit
You gain first level Divine spellcasting ability, or +1 to an existing Divine spellcasting ability

Special
This requires 2 feat slots to be expended.

When you take this feat, you can choose either spontaneous (using Cha as your casting stat) or memorized casting (using Wis as your casting stat); use the appropriate tables for spells castable and known.

Spontaneous divine casters, like the Favored Soul that DDO features, was first featured in the Complete Divine book. We could optionally leave this out if we wanted.

Arcane Spellcasting [General] (2 Feats)

Benefit
You gain first level arcane spellcasting ability, or +1 to an existing arcane spellcasting ability.

Special
This feat requires 2 feat slots.

When you take this feat, you can choose either spontaneous (using Cha as your casting stat) or memorized casting (using Int as your casting stat); use the appropriate tables for spells castable and known.

Spontaneous casting is like standard d20 Sorcerers, memorized casting is like standard Wizards.

Lesser Divine Spellcasting [General]

Benefit
You gain first level lesser divine spellcasting ability, or +1 to an existing lesser divine spellcasting ability. Wis is your casting stat.

This is for Ranger or Paladin casting. We'll ignore the issue about the specialized spell lists for each type.

Lesser Arcane Spellcasting [General]

Benefit
You gain first level lesser arcane spellcasting ability, or +1 to an existing lesser arcane spellcasting ability. Cha is your casting stat.

This is for Bard-type casting. Again, we'll ignore the specialized spell list for now.

We could also add in spontaneous vs. memorized spell differentiation here if we wanted.

We have a few other spellcasting-related things as well:

Spontaneous Spell Type [General]

Prerequisites
Memorized Divine Spellcasting or Arcane Spellcasting.

Benefit
A caster can expend a previously memorized spell slot to cast a specific type of spells. Examples: cure wounds spells, summon spells, inflict wounds spells, etc.

Normal
A caster who must memorize spells can only cast spells he or she has memorized.

Again, we'll leave the messy part of defining lists of spell types until later. :)

Spell Domain [General]

Prerequisites
Divine Spellcasting.

Benefit
You gain access to 2 domains. You can memorize and cast one additional spell per day from these domains per spell level you can cast. You also gain additional abilities.

Special
Domains you can choose may be restricted by your diety.

Armored Casting [General]

Prerequisites
Arcane Spellcasting or Lesser Arcane Spellcasting.

Benefit
A caster can ignore arcane spell failure while wearing light armor.

Normal
A caster wearing light armor must roll for arcane spell failure which could prevent the completion of the spell while still expending the spell slot.

This is to allow bard types to wear light armor, or to allow for "mage warrior" type characters. We could also expand this into other types of armor if we wanted, or shields, with further feats.

Okay, so that pretty much covers spellcasting.

Other class powers

What about the other class powers? We'll convert them to feats as well. Let's give an example of Bardic Music. I'm going to be really brief in the descriptions, only noting significant changes from the rules listed.

Bardic Music [General]

Prerequisites
The Perform skill.

Benefit
You gain the ability to use special abilities activated through song or other performance. Each ability requires a minimum number of ranks in the Perform skill.

Ability Minimum Perform Ranks Brief description
Countersong 3 Use singer's perform check as savings throw for any sound-based attack affecting friendly listeners. Can trigger another save for an in-place sound-based effect. Song can last 10 rounds.
Fascinate 3 Fascinates one target with music. Can affect one more target for every 3 additional ranks of Perform.
Inspire Courage 3 Gives a +1 morale bonus on saving throws against charm and fear effects and a +1 morale bonus on attack and weapon damage rolls. At 11 ranks, the bonus increased to +2; at 17 ranks the bonus is +3; at 23 ranks the bonus is +4.
Inspire Competence 6 Gives +2 competence bonus on skill checks with a particular skill to an ally. Cannot affect the singer.
Suggestion 9 Make a Suggestion (as the spell) to a creature affected by fascinate. Does not count as consume a bardic song use. A Will saving throw (DC 10 + [.5 * Ranks in Perform] + Cha modifier) negates the effect.
Inspire Greatness 12 Adds 2 levels/hit dice, +2 competence bonus on attack rolls, and a +1 competence bonus on Fortitude saves to target ally. Can affect one more ally for every 3 additional ranks of Perform.
Song of Freedom 15 Acts as a Break Enchantment spell. Cannot affect the singer.
Inspire Heroics 18 Gives a +4 morale bonus on saving throws and a +4 dodge bonus to AC. Can affect one more ally for every 3 additional ranks of Perform.
Mass Suggestion 21 As Suggestion above, but can affect multiple fascinated targets.

Special
This feat can be taken multiple times, increasing the number of bardic song uses per day by one.

As an alternative, we could have separated out each of these abilities into separate abilities and let players pick and choose. As it is now, it's a bit open to exploitation if someone only took a few feats in Bardic Music and got all these powers by being stingy with their singing. But, it's a tradeoff for more flexible characters.

Poke the system, see what it does

Okay, so let's try to create a character. As we specified before, we're assuming 4 feats at first level, 2 feats every level after that. Let's see what we can do by re-creating a few classes.

I'm going to assume that there are feats for each class ability and won't spell them out specifically.

Paladin
I like to try to re-create a Paladin as a test for a new system. It's a bit of a corner case since they have a lot of powers and it's assume the powers are "offset" by strict devotion to a deity. Since we don't have any mechanics for deity devotion, let's see how far we can get!

Level Feats taken Character Points
1 Simple Weapon Proficiency, Martial Weapon Training, Base Attack Bonus, Character Points d10 hit die, 1 martial weapon, +1 Fort save
2 Base Attack Bonus, Character Points d10 hit die, 1 martial weapon, +1 Reflex Save
3 Base Attack Bonus, Character Points d10 hit die, 1 martial weapon, +1 Will Save
4 Base Attack Bonus, Lesser Divine Spellcasting +1 Fort Save
5 Base Attack Bonus, Lesser Divine Spellcasting +1 Reflex Save

Okay, already we see some problems. This "paladin" still has no armor, no shields, no special abilities, and once we get spellcasting he gets demoted down to a d4 because we don't have the character points bonus.

Let's try three balancing changes: give everyone light armor proficiency for free, combine Aura of Good and Detect Evil into one feat, and give two more feats per level. We'll also give an additional feat at first level and one feat every level divisible by 3, just like in the original. (Note that you want to first try smaller increments, but I did some testing and came up with this value). So, here's Paladin mk. 2:

Level Feats taken Character Points
1 Simple Weapon Proficiency, Martial Weapon Training, Armor Proficiency (medium), Base Attack Bonus, Aura of Good/Detect Evil, Smite Evil, Character Points d10 hit die, +1 Fort save (1 remaining)
2 Base Attack Bonus, Shield Proficiency, Lay on Hands, Character Points d10 hit die, +1 Reflex Save (2 remaining)
3 Base Attack Bonus, Armor Proficiency (heavy), Aura of Courage, Character Points, (bonus) d10 hit die, +1 Will Save (3 remaining)
4 Base Attack Bonus, Turn Undead, Lesser Divine Spellcasting, Divine health d10 hit die, +1 Fort Save
5 Base Attack Bonus, Turn Undead, Lesser Divine Spellcasting, Character Points d10 hit die, +1 Reflex Save (1 remaining)
6 Base Attack Bonus, Turn Undead, Lesser Divine Spellcasting, Character Points, (bonus) d10 hit die, +1 Will Save (2 remaining)
7 Base Attack Bonus, Turn Undead, Lesser Divine Spellcasting, Character Points d10 hit die, +1 Fort Save (3 remaining)
8 Base Attack Bonus, Turn Undead, Lesser Divine Spellcasting, Smite Evil (2/day) d10 hit die, +1 Reflex Save
9 Base Attack Bonus, Turn Undead, Lesser Divine Spellcasting, Character Points, (bonus) d10 hit die, +1 Will Save (1 remaining)
10 Base Attack Bonus, Turn Undead, Lesser Divine Spellcasting, Character Points d10 hit die, +1 Fort Save (2 remaining)

Okay, this seems more reasonable, although we don't quite get all the Paladin goodies. The player would have to make some sacrifices somewhere if they wanted things like remove disease or the special mount. The player could also use their bonus feats to get more paladin-related abilities instead of typical customization.

Testing the balancing

Okay, so now we're going with 7 feats at first level, four feats per level for other levels, with a bonus feat every level divisible by 3. So, let's try to create another class....

Sorcerer
I'm intentionally taking a simpler class because I suspect it'll be broken with my adjustments for the Paladin.

Level Feats taken Character Points
1 Arcane Spellcasting [spontaneous] (2 feats), Summon Familiar, (unused), (unused), (unused), (bonus) +1 Will save
2 Arcane Spellcasting (2 feats), Base Attack Bonus, (unused) +1 Reflex Save
3 Arcane Spellcasting (2 feats), (unused), (unused), (bonus) +1 Fort Save
4 Arcane Spellcasting (2 feats), Base Attack Bonus, (unused) +1 Will Save
5 Arcane Spellcasting (2 feats), (unused), (unused) +1 Reflex Save

Okay, now we have the opposite problem here. If we had stuck with the original allocation of feats, we would be closer to balaced. But, the Paladin kinda screwed things up for us, didn't it?

Next steps

Okay, so let's actually have a challenge this week! In the comments, discuss what balancing steps you might want to take to balance out Paladins and Sorcerers in a classless system. I'll discuss some thoughts in the next post. We'll also consider some other issues related to this project, looking to put the finishing touches on the system soon.

So, what steps would you take to balance the feat requirements? Let's see your creativity on display. :)

--


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3 Comments »

  1. Well, Sorcerers actually have a BAB increase every even level which you left off, so that soaks up a few feats there. As written, both Lay on Hands and Smite Evil are somewhat weak abilities, in my view, probably not worth a feat in and of themselves. So I'd combine them. It makes the level progression a bit off, but I'm ok with that.

    Not that its a complete fix. At this point the cleric looks a lot like the paladin. Although this isn't a bad reflection of the CW, which holds that Clerics (and Paladins) and Druids are the most overpowered. Progressing both Divine Spellcasting and Turn Undead every level just soaks up a lot of feats.

    Comment by Toldain — 23 November, 2011 @ 8:00 AM

  2. Toldain wrote:
    Well, Sorcerers actually have a BAB increase every even level which you left off, so that soaks up a few feats there.

    Fair enough. I'll edit the post to reflect that. They do still have an extra feat every level, and two ever odd level.

    Any other thoughts on balancing things out?

    Comment by Psychochild — 23 November, 2011 @ 11:08 AM

  3. Weekend Design Challenge: More tweaks

    [...] Last time we were left with a sticky balancing issue of how many feats to give out. Paladins were feat starved, whereas a Sorcerer had plenty of feats to go around. This week I'll provide some thoughts about how to tackle this to try to bring some balance to the system and some other considerations. [...]

    Pingback by Psychochild's Blog — 28 November, 2011 @ 12:18 AM

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