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View Full Version : Changed Inspire Courage, Curse Song [3.5, PEACH]



Vadskye
2012-08-15, 12:13 PM
As part of my continuing quest to reduce the number of circumstantial modifiers to attack rolls, I changed Inspire Courage to use temporary hit points, as seen below. However, it seems to me that the bard would love the ability to not merely make his allies more durable, but also to make them hit harder. Without bonuses to attacks, that can only come from penalizing enemies' ability to defend. Hence the "Curse song", inspired by my time playing Neverwinter Nights, seen below. Does this seem balanced, and does it seem fun?

Inspire Courage (Su): A bard with 3 or more ranks in a Perform skill can use song or poetics to inspire courage in his allies (including himself ), bolstering them against fear and improving their combat abilities. To be affected, an ally must be able to hear the bard sing. The effect lasts for as long as the ally hears the bard sing and for 5 rounds thereafter. An affected ally receives the bard's level + Cha modifier in temporary hit points. At 8th level, and every six bard levels thereafter, this bonus doubles (x2 at 8th, x3 at 14th, and x4 at 20th). In addition, this song counters the influence of fear effects just as countersong counters the influence of sonic effects. You can't inspire courage in an ally more than once between short rests. Inspire courage is a mind-affecting ability.

Curse Song (Su): A bard of 3rd level or higher with rank 6 or higher in a Perform skill can use his music or poetics to afflict his enemies with ill fortune, giving them a penalty on saves, ability checks, skill checks, weapon damage rolls, and armor class equal to the bard's multiplier with his inspire courage ability (-1 at 1st level, -2 at 8th level, and so on). Each creature to be affected must be within 90 feet of the bard and must be able to hear the bard.

A Will saving throw (DC 10 + 1/2 bard's level + bard's Cha modifier) negates the curse's effect. Whether or not a creature's saving throw succeeds, the bard cannot attempt to curse that creature again for 24 hours. The penalties affect each creature for as long as the creature hears the bard sing and for 5 rounds afterwards.

Kholai
2012-08-15, 05:44 PM
I note that you appear to have removed an attack roll modifier in the form of Inspire Courage, and put it right back in with Curse Song in the form of reduced AC which is savable so it's not even consistently affecting all targets.

And you've added penalties to saves, ability checks, and weapon damage rolls as well, which are three more small numerical bonuses to keep track of, and again, aren't consistently applied.

This ultimately results in a major downgrade to the Bard, and more, not less, book keeping.

Vadskye
2012-08-15, 06:12 PM
Hm. I have to agree that it is a net increase to the amount of bookkeeping. When I made this, I assumed that it is just bookkeeping for me to do as a DM; in that scenario, I don't mind it so much. But there could be Bard NPCs, and Curse Song is definitely more work to keep track of as written than the original Inspire Courage.

I would disagree that the change is a major downgrade to the Bard, though. The original inspire courage was a nice, but fairly minor bonus that would rarely turn a battle - particularly considering that it doesn't stack with other morale bonuses. In contrast, granting temporary HP to everyone adds a substantial amount of survivability at low levels, and at high levels the temporary hit points can get very large. Assuming a fairly minimal 16 Cha at 8th level, the song grants 22 temporary hit points to everyone - or 88 free HP assuming an average 4-person party. I think I'd take this over the original - and it gets extremely good with some basic Inspire Courage optimization. (Of course, there's always Dragonfire Inspriration to compete with, but that's a different question entirely.)

That brings me to say - what if I just got rid of Curse Song? I think you're right that it's more effort to keep track of that than it's worth. But is this new inspire courage really unable to stand on its own?

Kholai
2012-08-15, 07:55 PM
Honestly I was referring to Curse Song vs. IC, rather than the new IC vs old.

Determining the value of +1-4 to hit, +1-4 to damage is a tricky one, it depends on the enemy's AC, how many party members you have, how much of an attack bonus they have, how many attacks they're making and what they rolled.

Ultimately whenever an ally would miss without Inspire Courage, 100% of that damage is pure bonus. If a +2 IC means that the fighter hits twice in a combat whilst Power Attacking for ~20 with their Greatsword, then it's accounted for 4D6 + 44 + 1.5x Str. If a +6 IC means that the party's rogue TWFs and hits five times instead of three, for full Sneak Damage on each hit and +6 damage on every blow, then it's worth a whole lot more, and it's fairly simple to get a +6 with minimal optimisation.

It's an ability that a bard can almost always have active, since they can maintain it forever, and it isn't something that the enemy can save against or dispell.

Comparing that to ~100 Temporary hitpoints that the bard can apply once and cannot apply again until after a short rest is rather difficult. Temporary hitpoints don't stack either, only the highest source can apply, so you're basically dishing out something at level 20 which is three times as powerful as an Empowered Mass Aid.

Assuming 18 > 22 Charisma, with IC optimised with just Song of the Heart and Inspirational Boost.

At level ~5 you can only expect +2 to hit and damage versus ~10 Temporary hitpoints, five hits worth.

Level 8 - Temp HP goes up to +26. +4 to hit and damage; 6 hits worth.

Level 14 - ~52 Temp HP, +5 Hit & Damage - 10 hits worth.

Level 20 - ~104 temp HP, +6 Hit & Damage - 17 hits worth.

On paper it seems like the gap is widening, except at level 8, 6 hits is a lot less valuable than 5 hits at level 5 thanks to iterative attacks, and this doesn't count in the misses that wouldn't happen if your people had their IC active.

Finally, at higher levels Hitpoints just aren't the most important thing, too many save or dies. It's a decent ability (it certainly renders Inspire Greatness obsolete), but I think I'll stand by it being an overall downgrade.

Vadskye
2012-08-15, 07:59 PM
Hm... I like your analysis. I'm still reading it in detail, but I'd just point out that any optimization from Song of the Heart, etc., would increase the multiplier for the temporary hitpoints as well. So if you're assuming a +5 modifier for attack and damage at 14th level, assume a x5 multiplier for the temporary hit points provided as well - which adds up to 90, assuming an 18 Cha, not 52. I wrote the system the way I did to ensure compatibility with all the other material that deals with Inspire Courage.

Vadskye
2012-08-15, 08:20 PM
I love your idea of calculating the relative value of temporary hit points by comparing them to the value of the damage that would have been done, so let's look a bit deeper at that. Like you said, figuring out the mechanical significance of an attack bonus is difficult. However, as a slightly lazy but not wholly inaccurate solution for this, we could treat +1 attack bonus as being equal to +2 damage, just like a two-handed power attack. Assuming 16 Cha at 5th level, 18 Cha at 8th level, 20 Cha at 14th level, and 22 Cha at 20th level, the numbers are:

Level 5 - 24 hp, +6 damage. 4 hits worth.

Level 8 - 48 hp, +12 damage. 4 hits worth.

Level 14 - 95 hp, +15 damage. 6.3 hits worth.

Level 20 - 156 hp, +18 damage. 8.6 hits worth.

At high levels, attack bonus is probably worth more than the 2 for 1 damage tradeoff indicates, since you can deal much more damage dealt with each attack. But if you (arbitrarily, I admit) assume it's actually twice as good, or worth a 4 to 1 trade, that makes the progression pretty darn consistent, stabilizing at about 4 hits worth. The question then becomes: is 4 hits really the balance point I want to set?

Side note about optimization:
If you assume only a +1 bonus from inspire courage optimization (that you can have by 5th level), the numbers become:

Level 5 - 24 hp, +6 damage. 4 hits worth.
Level 8 - 36 hp, +9 damage. 4 hits worth.
Level 14 - 76 hp, +12 damage. 6.3 hits worth.
Level 20 - 130 hp, +15 damage. 8.6 hits worth.

In other words, it scales perfectly regardless of the level of optimization assumed. I should have realized this before I did the numbers, but it's still good to see. Yay!

Vadskye
2012-08-15, 09:36 PM
How many times does a warrior hit in a typical encounter? Well, I don't really know that. But I do know a monster's average HP by CR (http://www.enworld.org/forum/d-d-legacy-discussion/138024-average-ac-hp-core-monsters-cr.html). A CR 5 monster has 55 hp, or 9 hits worth. A CR 8 monster has an average of 96 hp, or 8 hits worth. A CR 14 monster has an average of 174 hp, or 12 hits worth. Finally, a CR 20 monster has an average of 444 hp, or 24 hits worth.

Actually, I'll be honest: I have no idea what that means about the usefulness of the ability. But looking at the numbers just feels right.

We can approach this from a different angle. You presented an interesting idea with your comparison to Empowered Mass Aid - how much better is inspire courage than what can be accomplished with spells? At 5th level, the original inspire courage is the equivalent of a Good Hope, or a 3rd level spell. There is no spell that I know that can provide a morale bonus to attack and damage higher than +2, but you could say that the 20th level version is three times better than a 3rd level spell. By that comparison, the 20th level version of the new inspire courage is about 5.3x better than a 7th level spell (empowered mass aid). Or you could look at it as being a contingent mass heal, which is a spell that doesn't exist except in epic levels. Either way, it comes out looking pretty good, I think.

Kholai
2012-08-16, 04:00 AM
How many times does a warrior hit in a typical encounter? Well, I don't really know that. But I do know a monster's average HP by CR (http://www.enworld.org/forum/d-d-legacy-discussion/138024-average-ac-hp-core-monsters-cr.html). A CR 5 monster has 55 hp, or 9 hits worth. A CR 8 monster has an average of 96 hp, or 8 hits worth. A CR 14 monster has an average of 174 hp, or 12 hits worth. Finally, a CR 20 monster has an average of 444 hp, or 24 hits worth.

Actually, I'll be honest: I have no idea what that means about the usefulness of the ability. But looking at the numbers just feels right.

We can approach this from a different angle. You presented an interesting idea with your comparison to Empowered Mass Aid - how much better is inspire courage than what can be accomplished with spells? At 5th level, the original inspire courage is the equivalent of a Good Hope, or a 3rd level spell. There is no spell that I know that can provide a morale bonus to attack and damage higher than +2, but you could say that the 20th level version is three times better than a 3rd level spell. By that comparison, the 20th level version of the new inspire courage is about 5.3x better than a 7th level spell (empowered mass aid). Or you could look at it as being a contingent mass heal, which is a spell that doesn't exist except in epic levels. Either way, it comes out looking pretty good, I think.

Yeah, the power of a bard is subtle, so figuring out all the actual real value of their inspirations is always a problem.

Taking a CR 21 monster without instant death effects:

http://www.d20srd.org/srd/monsters/titan.htm

At will: 20D6 damage, swift action, whilst full attacking with a Gargantuan +3 adamantine warhammer +37/+32/+27/+22 melee (4d6+27/3)

AC of 38, so a Fighter 20 with a +5 sword and Weapon Focus has to roll a 12 / 17 / 20 / 20 to hit.

If the fighter has Inspire Courage #1, this changes to: 8 / 13 / 18 / 20 - a fairly dramatic improvement. This lasts five rounds longer than the Bard does.

If the fighter has Inspire Courage #2, then they can still, RAW, take death from massive damage from the Titan's hits, and the temporary HP will last on average for three hits or so, after which the bard has to switch songs to contribute. This might let them tank the Titan for the few turns it takes for the Wizard to instant-death the titan, which might be better for them than pretending they're relevant, or may not.

Rather than Heal or Aid, how does it compare to Stoneskin, or any of the other DR greats that are used in high level play?

-

http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/heroismGreater.htm

This is the only one I know of; if you knock off a level for dropping the bonuses to saves, skill checks and temporary HP, then you've probably got a single target equivalent of a no-SotH/IB inspire.

About the only other thing I can think of here to consider is that of stat dependency. Charisma above 16 is not mandatory for a bard, their Inspire doesn't care. With Inspire Courage#2, there's a new requirement for investment.

Vadskye
2012-08-16, 12:40 PM
AC of 38, so a Fighter 20 with a +5 sword and Weapon Focus has to roll a 12 / 17 / 20 / 20 to hit.
You show me a Fighter 20 with only +26 to hit and I'll show you someone who has never played D&D before. :P A mere NPC fighter from the DMG gets +32 to hit (with a +4 weapon), and it takes the optimization skill of a lemur to figure out how to outdo a generic NPC. I'm not sure that this changes the nature of the problem, but I wouldn't make any assumptions that depend on that attack progression. Just using a normal wealth by level to upgrade the weapon to +5, taking the Melee Weapon Mastery feat, and getting a tome of +4 strength - none of which are remotely taxing demands of a level 20 character - pushes that up to a +37 to hit on the first attack.

That makes the new attack progression 2 / 6 / 11 / 16. Adding Inspire Courage #1 takes that to 2 / 2 / 7 / 12, which (while still helpful) is not nearly as dramatic an improvement.

I think that the huge damage done by a Titan's fists does raise one key point, though. Your average 20th level fighter with an 18 Con has 204 HP, assuming you're in a system that rerolls 1s on HP rolls. That's not going to last very long at all; if the fight isn't over in the first few rounds, the fighter is going end up as paste, which makes the theoretical long-term advantage of inspire courage #1 largely irrelevant. In contrast, inspire courage #2 is nearly doubling the fighter's ability to survive and keep delivering a beatdown.


Rather than Heal or Aid, how does it compare to Stoneskin, or any of the other DR greats that are used in high level play?
It definitely does better than a Stoneskin (massive damage aside); you'd need to take (and survive) 15 hits in a single encounter for Stoneskin to simply be even with the bard's help, which strikes me as being highly implausible for most encounters. I don't know of many spells which grant more than DR 10 - Iron Body is the only one that comes to mind, but that's not really the same kind of spell, and it's still dramatically outperformed by the bard's temporary HP.



http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/heroismGreater.htm

This is the only one I know of; if you knock off a level for dropping the bonuses to saves, skill checks and temporary HP, then you've probably got a single target equivalent of a no-SotH/IB inspire.
Greater Heroism doesn't boost damage, unfortunately, which makes it more difficult to use as a comparison point.



About the only other thing I can think of here to consider is that of stat dependency. Charisma above 16 is not mandatory for a bard, their Inspire doesn't care. With Inspire Courage#2, there's a new requirement for investment.
True. My original version of the ability was 5+bard level instead of Cha+bard level; that version might be better for precisely that reason.

If you don't mind, I'm going to make this a little more complicated. You have convinced me that the bard would really like to help people do damage rather than just help them survive. But I still don't like giving attack bonuses situationally. One solution to this is to give an extra attack each round, plus damage bonuses. That's too powerful for a 1st level bard song, but it would fit in nicely as a replacement for the now-obsolete Inspire Greatness. What do you think of this ability? I think it would address some of the issues you have above rather nicely.

Inspire Greatness (Su): A bard of 9th level or higher with rank 12 or higher
in a Perform skill can use music or poetics to inspire greatness
in his allies (including himself), granting them extra fighting capability. To be affected, an ally must be able to hear the bard sing. The effect lasts for as
long as the ally hears the bard sing and for 5 rounds thereafter. A
creature inspired with greatness gains an enhancement bonus on weapon damage rolls equal to the bard's multiplier with his inspire courage ability (+2 at 9th level, +3 at 14th, and +4 at 20th) and can take an extra attack when making a full attack. The attack is made using the creature's full base attack bonus, plus any modifiers appropriate to the situation. This effect is not cumulative with similar effects. Inspire greatness is a mind-affecting ability.

Kholai
2012-08-16, 07:27 PM
Hm.... yeah, completely forgot to include a wide range of modifiers into that one, even core only, whoops.

Anyway, it's not so much that I feel a bard would like to be helping the party deal damage as that he would like to be doing cool stuff with his songs. With Lingering Song he's got 10 rounds of temporary HP, and that temporary HP is by nature ablative and irreplaceable, so he's got even less motivation to keep singing than he does with regular IC. I enjoyed the NWN2 version of the bard because he was always able to output a powerful effect with songs for DR, AC, fast healing and saves on top of an attack bonus.

With this in mind the change on Inspire Greatness is neat, the bard before was basically a 19 BAB class except with only three attacks a round, this goes the other direction and makes them 15 BAB with four attacks a round.

As a minor idea for Inspire Courage that just came to me, what if it gave the recipients of the inspiration a refreshing pool of temporary hit points each round? Say the bard's Charisma modifier multiplied by their "Multiplier"? So a level 1 bard could give 4 temp HP a round so long as they played and five rounds after, 10 temp HP / round at level 8, 15 / round at level 14, and ~28 a round by level 20.

Since temp HP can't stack, this would mean they'd basically have a free-floating pool of the DR against anything ever whilst being injurable by anything that broke through that amount.

Vadskye
2012-08-16, 08:35 PM
Replenishing temporary hit points! Oh, I should have thought of that ages ago. Yes, I think that's exactly what I was looking for. That solves the odd interaction with the new Save or Die mechanics and the problem where the bard would basically always want to fire off the temporary hp buff once and then go do other things for the rest of the fight. I'm not sure that Cha times multiplier is exactly right, since does create a huge reliance on that one stat. What about (pulling numbers out of thin air) 2 + 1/2 bard level? At low levels, it's good, but it's definitely not an invincibility button. At 8th level, though, you're looking at 12 hp/round "core", or 24 with those two optimizations. I'm kind of okay with the first number, but 24 hp/round is going to make you invincible in a lot of fights. It needs to be lower, then.

I think I want to diminish the significance of optimization; having it consistently double the impact of the buff makes it hard to make the numbers work out well for a core bard. Granting faster multiplier advancement from the core class should help with that: we can use x1 at 1st level, x2 at 5th, x3 at 10th, x4 at 15th, etc. A totally flat base won't work; that won't scale well into the high levels. What about 3 hp + 1/3 levels? At low levels, that's nice, but it won't absorb a whole hit most of the time. By 8th level, you're getting 10 hp/round normally, or 20 with the optimizations. 20th level brings you 45 hp/round core, or 63 hp/round with optimizations.

I want to like this, but I just can't. I think too many fights will devolve into a "they can't get past our temporary hit points" grind-fest. I think the problem lies with the nature of multipliers; that first jump from x1 to x2 is huge, and x2 to x4 is also a big deal, but it just stops mattering as much after that. Hm...

Perhaps I'm looking at this from the wrong direction. How many free temporary hit points per round does seem fair? I want the hit points to reduce the impact of a monster's damage, but not completely negate it. A fireball (scaled to level) should always be enough to punch through the temporary hit points and still hurt people if they fail their save, but maybe if they make their save they could get by without real damage - or at least, without much - assuming they take no other damage in the round. If that's my baseline, I want to give about 1.5 temporary hp/level, since a fireball that you make your save against deals 1.75 damage/level.

That suggests adding 1 hp/level and changing the optimizations to be additive instead of multiplicative. We'll use the 1st/5th/10th/15th/20th bonus increases for this. Those bonuses can add 2 hp instead of being a +1 bonus, though. At 8th level, the bard gives 12 hp/round core, and that only goes up to 16 hp/round with the optimizations. Meanwhile, if you make a save against a fireball from an 8th level caster, you'll take about 4d6 damage, or 14 damage. So you still take piddling damage if you've got a normal bard on your side, but an optimized bard lets you Evasion your way out fireballs (sort of). I like it. At 20th, the bard grants 30 hp/round core, or 34 hp/round optimized. If you make your save against the wizard's horrid wilting, you'll take about 10d6 damage, or 35 damage. I think that's about where I want it. Still, I would rather the optimizations were a bit more effective relative to core, though. If each bonus gives 3 hp instead and we use a 1st/8th/14th/20th progression base, that means a 20th level core bard grants 32 hp, and an optimized bard gives 38. Still not a massive difference, but I'm okay with that.

Okay, that was a lot. Any thoughts on that system?

Kholai
2012-08-17, 04:55 AM
Something to bear in mind is that there will frequently be multiple sources of incoming damage, so you can get away with a slightly higher temporary hitpoint total.

With this in mind, what about forgetting Bard level and having it be a flat multiplier of your inspire courage bonus, and then that multiplier can increase every 5-6 levels or so?

Level 1: x3 multiplier, +1 IC: 3 Temp HP - 0 Str Short Sword hit deals 0.5 damage.
Level 2: x3 +2 IC (Boost): 6 HP - 0 Str Greatsword hit deals 0.5 damage.
Level 5: x4 +1 IC (Core): 4 Temp HP. - Largely immune to the first average short sword hit.
Level 6: x4 +3 IC (Heart): 12 HP. - First Iteratives, two greatsword hits deal 1 damage.
Level 8: x4 +2 IC (Core): 8 HP - Immune to your first shortsword.
Level 10: x5 +2 IC (Core): 10 HP - Immune to ~2 short sword hits in a single round.
Level 10: x5 +4 (Heart): 20 HP - Immune to your first saved-against fireball of the round, on average.
Level 14: x5 +3 IC (Core): 15 HP.
Level 14 (Heart): 25 HP - a CR 13 Storm Giant hits for a minimum of 25 damage without Power Attack.
...
Level 20: x7 +4 IC (Core): 28 HP.
Optimised: x7 +7 (Heart, Boost, Item): 49 HP - Two iteratives from a Titan, if you save against the Red Dragon's breath you don't take real damage, if you don't then you'll take about 30.

Either way I think it's decent, it makes the Bard something of a target though.

Mechanically I assume these Temp HP only last 1 round, so lingering song would give 10 rounds of Temp HP that then immediately dissipate?

Vadskye
2012-08-17, 01:18 PM
Hm. It strikes me as confusing to have two separate scaling numbers, one of which is a multiplier and the other is being multiplied. But! When I look at that multiplier progression, what immediately comes to mind is that Charisma bonus scales in approximately the same way as what we have there right now. A bard will probably have no more than a 16 or 18 at most at first level, and could reasonably cap out at 24, giving us about the numbers we want.

Actually, I'm not so sure about that; a Spellscale bard can have a 20 Charisma at 1st level, and giving 10 hp/round at 2nd level is stupidly good. So Charisma won't work. But having two differently scaling numbers is icky...

The more I think about it, the more I like the version where the inspire courage bonuses aren't actually that critical. Song of the Heart does much, much more than just boost inspire courage; its effect doesn't need to be that strong on inspire courage specifically to be a very useful feat (particularly with bard songs being generally improved). Inspirational Boost is a 1st level spell - it makes sense that its effect would be much more pronounced at low levels than at high levels. And maybe, just maybe, with this version of inspire courage Words of Creation wouldn't be stupidly good. Am I missing anything important that says that I shouldn't use the version based off of bard level?

Also, yes, the temporary hit points would disappear when the bard song wears off.