PDA

View Full Version : Balancing Casters (3.5)



Baron Corm
2008-09-30, 10:54 PM
A variant on spellcasters which seeks to erase save-or-loses, or no-save-and-loses, with the theory that if you are a powerful enough mage, you should be able to damage a creature to death with a snap of your fingertips. Also given that utility spells in general are harder to do correctly, so you get less of them.

These classes replace all classes with spell progression, but may be reflavored any way you like (as always). So in effect, cleric and druid can still be played. Keep the ranger, paladin, and bard if you desire, though there are numerous rewrites of these classes which bring them to the power levels of the below classes.

I recommend using these mage classes with the bard and hunter classes in my signature, the ToB classes, and many of the skillmonkey classes (rogue, spellthief, factotum, and scout come to mind). These classes were actually made to balance against this sort of power level (and fill in the gap), so keep that in mind while critiquing.

Houserule: Any spell which has an effect other than damage (ability damage is an effect other than damage) may only be used on a creature with an amount of HD equal to (caster level - spell level). Note: this makes caster level more important, so be stringent with increases to it.

Houserule: No spell is allowed which grants a bonus to skill checks or replicates the effect of a successful skill check. For the liberation of skillmonkeys.

Optional Houserule: Any spell which did not offer a save now offers a save, as appropriate to the spell. If the spell required an attack roll, it no longer does. If the spell deals nothing but damage, the save is for half damage. If the spell has other effects, the save negates all effects, and causes any damage to be halved. Examples: Forcecage (Reflex), Orb of Acid (Fortitude half).


Wizard/Witch
{table="head"]Level|BAB|Fort|Ref|Will|Special

1st|+0|+0|+0|+2|Spells, familiar aptitude

2nd|+1|+0|+0|+3|

3rd|+1|+1|+1|+3|

4th|+2|+1|+1|+4|

5th|+2|+1|+1|+4|Personal spell

6th|+3|+2|+2|+5|

7th|+3|+2|+2|+5|

8th|+4|+2|+2|+6|

9th|+4|+3|+3|+6|

10th|+5|+3|+3|+7|Personal spell

11th|+5|+3|+3|+7|

12th|+6/+1|+4|+4|+8|

13th|+6/+1|+4|+4|+8|

14th|+7/+2|+4|+4|+9|

15th|+7/+2|+5|+5|+9|Personal spell

16th|+8/+3|+5|+5|+10|

17th|+8/+3|+5|+5|+10|

18th|+9/+4|+6|+6|+11|

19th|+9/+4|+6|+6|+11|

20th|+10/+5|+6|+6|+12|Personal spell

[/table]

Alignment: Any
Hit Die: d4
Class Skills: As wizard
Skill Points at 1st Level: (2 + Int modifier) 4.
Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Weapon and Armor Proficiencies

Wizards are proficient with no weapons or armors.

Spells

Wizards receive (arcane) spells per day as a PHB wizard, but know all spells of a level they have spells per day in. They do not have a spellbook. They use Wisdom to determine bonus spells per day and Intelligence to determine spell DCs. They cast spontaneously, from the warmage spell list (excluding save-or-dies).

Familiar Aptitude

A wizard is capable of obtaining a familiar via the Improved Familiar feat or similar.

Personal Spell

Every 5 levels, a wizard may add a spell to his spell list. The spell may come from any existing spell list, but must have DM approval. It may not be a spell of a higher level than the wizard can currently cast from.


Spellsword/Duskblade/Eldritch Knight/Whatever
{table="head"]Level|BAB|Fort|Ref|Will|Special

1st|+0|+0|+0|+2|Spells, spellstrike

2nd|+1|+0|+0|+3|

3rd|+2|+1|+1|+3|

4th|+3|+1|+1|+4|

5th|+3|+1|+1|+4|

6th|+4|+2|+2|+5|

7th|+5|+2|+2|+5|

8th|+6/+1|+2|+2|+6|

9th|+6/+1|+3|+3|+6|

10th|+7/+2|+3|+3|+7|Personal spell

11th|+8/+3|+3|+3|+7|

12th|+9/+4|+4|+4|+8|


13th|+9/+4|+4|+4|+8|

14th|+10/+5|+4|+4|+9|

15th|+11/+6/+1|+5|+5|+9|

16th|+12/+7/+2|+5|+5|+10|

17th|+12/+7/+2|+5|+5|+10|

18th|+13/+8/+3|+6|+6|+11|

19th|+14/+9/+4|+6|+6|+11|

20th|+15/+10/+5|+6|+6|+12|Personal spell

[/table]

Alignment: Any
Hit Die: d8
Class Skills: As duskblade (not that I actually checked the duskblade skill list)
Skill Points at 1st Level: (4 + Int modifier) 4.
Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 4 + Int modifier.

Weapon and Armor Proficiencies

Spellswords are proficient with all simple and martial weapons. They are proficient with light and medium armors. They are proficient with light shields.

Spells

Spellswords receive (arcane) spells per day as a sorceror, but know all spells of a level they have spells per day in. They use Constitution to determine bonus spells and spell DCs. They cast spontaneously, from the warmage spell list (excluding save-or-dies). A spellsword is only subject to arcane spell failure from heavy shields, tower shields, and heavy armors.

A spellsword's caster level is equal to his base attack bonus, instead of his class level. This only counts base attack bonus gained from spellsword levels.

Spellstrike

A spellsword may cast a single spell as a swift action any time he attacks. The spell must not have a casting time of greater than a standard action, and the target and area is changed to affect only the attacked target.

Personal Spell

At levels 10 and 20, a spellsword may add a spell to his spell list. The spell may come from any existing spell list, but must have DM approval. It may not be a spell of a higher level than the spellsword can currently cast from.

Zeta Kai
2008-10-01, 08:46 AM
Houserule: Any spell which has an effect other than damage (ability damage is an effect other than damage) may only be used on a creature with an amount of HD equal to (caster level - spell level). Note: this makes caster level more important, so be stringent with increases to it.

Houserule: No spell is allowed which grants a bonus to skill checks or replicates the effect of a successful skill check. For the liberation of skillmonkeys.

Optional Houserule: Any spell which did not offer a save now offers a save, as appropriate to the spell. If the spell required an attack roll, it no longer does. If the spell deals nothing but damage, the save is for half damage. If the spell has other effects, the save negates all effects, and causes any damage to be halved. Examples: Forcecage (Reflex), Orb of Acid (Fortitude half).

So, your house rules for casters are basically this:

You can only use non-damage spells on opponents with HD equal to (or less than) your caster level.
All spells that grant bonuses to skills are null & void.
All spells allow a saving throw to negate, avoid, or half-damage.

So, do you have any other tips on how to castrate spellcasting? Maybe casters should take HP damage equal to their caster level every time they cast a spell? Or maybe casting times should be quadrupled? Or maybe XP costs should be tripled? Or maybe players who chose to play a caster should be hit with their choice of splatbook each time they cast a spell? :smallamused:

Seriously, these are unjust ways to nerf spellcasting. If you wanna do that, just force players to choose a ToM caster. If you really wanna fix casting, while still being fair to your players, then just ban a few problematic spells, tweak a few others, & (most importantly) elevate the rest of your game to compensate. Parties consisting of ToB melee-users, psionicists, & core casters should be able to get along on roughly equal footing. The game balance is in your hands already, so there's no real need to take choices away from the players.

AstralFire
2008-10-01, 08:52 AM
*agrees with ZK*

I'm always partial towards making Save or Die into Save or Damage, but that's about it, and I don't think it's a big deal.

Baron Corm
2008-10-01, 11:01 AM
If you really wanna fix casting, while still being fair to your players, then just ban a few problematic spells, tweak a few others, & (most importantly) elevate the rest of your game to compensate.

That was the idea.

You can still use any buffing spells, as long as you're not using them to replace skillmonkeys completely. You can still use attacking spells, as long as they don't defeat a powerful opponent in 1 hit (and you can still defeat lesser minions in 1 hit).

You're trying to say, I believe, that the class is too weak. Could you be more specific please? Is the HD limit for spells too low based on average HD of the CR monster you'll be facing? Perhaps just make it based on CR instead? Maybe start 1st level spells can be used on a monster of a CR two ABOVE your caster level, and then go down from there? Keep in mind that people can still increase their caster level... anyway what I would really like is suggestions instead of "your idea is bad and you should drop it completely".


I'm always partial towards making Save or Die into Save or Damage, but that's about it, and I don't think it's a big deal.

What's not a big deal? The warblade/rogue/whatever has to use tactics and engage in epic battles with the creatures you send at them but the wizard can defeat him with barely a thought? The very idea of save-or-die/lose spells I think is unbalanced *shrug*.

phoenixcire
2008-10-01, 11:35 AM
What's not a big deal? The warblade/rogue/whatever has to use tactics and engage in epic battles with the creatures you send at them but the wizard can defeat him with barely a thought? The very idea of save-or-die/lose spells I think is unbalanced *shrug*.

A wizard typically has to struggle much harder in early levels than any other class. Why should you deny them the payoffs for their struggles?

AstralFire
2008-10-01, 01:30 PM
I'm not keen on on mechanics that work via HD or CR as a general rule, but CR+3 or 4 is probably a better way to do it than anything involving HD, which is widely variant after the mid levels.

Zeta Kai
2008-10-01, 02:56 PM
I'm not keen on on mechanics that work via HD or CR as a general rule, but CR+3 or 4 is probably a better way to do it than anything involving HD, which is widely variant after the mid levels.

Well, the only problem with basing mechanics on CR is the Challenge Rating are mostly guesswork, even for monsters published by WotC. At least HD is not a disputable statistic.

AstralFire
2008-10-01, 03:03 PM
Well, the only problem with basing mechanics on CR is the Challenge Rating are mostly guesswork, even for monsters published by WotC. At least HD is not a disputable statistic.

That's true, but using HD as a basis also means extremely weak dragons that an intelligently built but limited resource Fighter could solo may be unable to be affected.

Zeta Kai
2008-10-01, 03:06 PM
That's true, but using HD as a basis also means extremely weak dragons that an intelligently built but limited resource Fighter could solo may be unable to be affected.

Hence the reason to not use this kooky variant, & either find a different solution or leave well enough alone.

AstralFire
2008-10-01, 03:34 PM
Hence the reason to not use this kooky variant, & either find a different solution or leave well enough alone.

Well, I agree, but for the sake of being helpful - making all the no-save suck spells have a save should provide a more even solution, yes?

KKL
2008-10-01, 04:58 PM
Spellsword/Duskblade/Eldritch Knight/Whatever
I seriously, seriously just have to ask.

Have you ever looked at the Duskblade, Spellsword, or Eldritch Knight classes at all? What you've done with this houserule and new clas sprogression was turn the Duskblade into a quivering sack of uselessness. Not to mention the Eldritch Knight class, which is made for gish classes by dint of having 5/5 CL And full BAB.

Meek
2008-10-01, 05:28 PM
Eldritch Knight is a prestige class. I have no idea why your variant needs to balance that...when it doesn't really even have any class features to begin with.

Duskblade was perfectly balanced as it was (It's not it's fault that Wizard's didn't come up with its spell progression to give to the Paladin/Ranger beforehand). You gutted its class features and made it worthless both flavor and powerwise.

AstralFire
2008-10-01, 05:30 PM
Actually, off-hand I'd say it's a decent spellsword compared to someone taking Wizard 8/Fighter 2/Spellsword 10 (not that that gets done much). He tried to simplify the channel spell/swift spell/arcane channel mechanics into one. It's very meh against a Duskblade, though.

Lorien077
2008-10-01, 10:36 PM
Okay, so after breaking their kneecaps what do I do next? With these rules you're going severally limit a caster's flexibility, which they have paid for dearly with the struggles at low levels and those piddly piddly d4s and pathetic saves.
I second the notion of dealing with problems on a case by case basis. If a player is using his spells to keep the skillmonkey out of work there's a problem with the player, no the class.
And the easiest class to abuse is rogue really. Oh dear that sneak attack needs some moderate re-writing. (Duel wielding rogues= holy crap most damage I've seen) Then again I've seen them twinked out pretty good, which can make any class seem OP.

ShneekeyTheLost
2008-10-01, 10:42 PM
If you truely wish to balance casters, may I suggest you base them on the Warlock (from Complete Arcane)? It is fairly balanced vs ToB characters. True, with optimization they can be powerful, but then anything that hasn't been broken hasn't been brought to the attention of the CharOp boards.

They do have save or suck spells, and a lot of damage potential, but they have almost no access to a pure 'win' button like a Wizard with persisted Foresight and Contingency Celerity upon my being the target of anything that could hurt or hamper me; which I then use to cast Sudden Maximized Time Stop.

ericgrau
2008-10-01, 11:11 PM
^ A CR 1 orc fires a crossbow at you... and misses :smallbiggrin:

I think rules #1 and #3 already accomplishes his goal. Though with rule #3 I think you might as well just ban those spells, since they won't be worth much anymore. I'm not sure what all the rest is for. Except rule #2, I can see what it intends to do. But I don't see it as being necessary unless there's some splatbook spells I haven't noticed (and then I blame it on the splatbook).

As for rule #2...
I disagree with this one. A common misconception about skill checks is that they are subject to some kind of scaling; i.e., if you can't get it high enough to match your level it isn't worth getting at all, or if you get some massive bonus you're somehow way more powerful. In fact it is quite the opposite. Most skill checks are against set DCs, so for many (but not all) skills it pays to get "just enough". Especially when you can take a 10 or 20. There might also be high and low set DCs, but sometimes you only want to beat some of these DCs. Though I know some groups where the DM will demand a DC 15 or DC 20 skill check for every mundane task. Spot & listen are especially notorious for this. Tisk tisk, skill ranks are only supposed to be necessary for "heroic" uses of skills. Spells only boost certain skill checks. Most skills are limited in scope. Though again some DMs throw common sense out the window on skills, letting you do all kinds of crazy things that shouldn't be possible with any roll, or let you do impossible things on high rolls (again, ignoring that certain actions are outside the scope of the skill regardless of your roll)... especially on cha skills. And spells only work on some skills. Most are against set DCs, not opposed DCs, so it doesn't matter much what the bonus is. Most help non-skillmonkeys beat challenges that skillmonkeys can't carry the party through (like jump). Thus skill boosting spells are nothing but very limited (and temporary) utility spells. Glibness is an exception, but it's a self-only spell for a skillmonkey, so it's not really an exception.

AstralFire
2008-10-02, 07:07 AM
And the easiest class to abuse is rogue really.

...

No, not really. Maybe if all you're fighting are high SR, no fortification humanoids with low AC.

Zeta Kai
2008-10-02, 08:04 AM
...

No, not really. Maybe if all you're fighting are high SR, no fortification humanoids with low AC.

Oh, yeah, that happens all the time. :smallamused:

Seriously, though, the assertion that the Rogue is the most easily-abuse class is ludicrous in the extreme. To make that assumption true, a DM would have to ban Bards & Beguilers (for Diplomancy), ban Druids & Clerics (for CoDzilla), ban Sorcerers (for save-or-die/suck cheese), ban Wizards (for Batman with extra cheese), & maybe hamstring a number of other routes of abuse. A player with a talent for munchkinism is gonna pass on the Rogue every time, in lieu of much more efficient builds.

The Rogue is my favorite class, & I still think that even with the sub-optimal skill system in place in 3E, it is one of the least abusable classes. A twinked out Fighter is more prone to abuse (for trip-cheese).

Lorien077
2008-10-02, 10:51 PM
Huh, guess I've just seen the worst of rogues. What I've seen is a rogue with high to hit rolls and multiple sneak attacks per turn (dual wielding multiarmed builds are scary) that can sneak attack most anything. For normal players I do think they need some extra omph. (The way it should be rogue floating around was cool)
You'll note I'm hardly advocating banning them; I'm just saying there's a way to abuse virtually any class. Such as trip cheese, or caster cheese, or cleric. Clerics don't really need cheese. :P

Zeta Kai
2008-10-02, 11:28 PM
Clerics ARE cheese. :P

Fixed that for you. :smallwink:

Zeful
2008-10-02, 11:51 PM
Here's a fix I'm working on for wizards right now.

They start play with access to two schools of magic. At 3rd level they gain access to a third but at a -2 caster level. Then you add this feat.

Expanded School knowledge
Your broad studies into the arcane open up new possibilities.
Prerequisites: Wizard Level 5+
Benefit: You gain access to another school of magic of your choice. You may cast spells from this school as if you were a wizard two levels lower then lowest level school you have access to.
Special: You may take this feat multiple times, choosing a new school each time.

In short, access to new school but at -1 spell level.

Of course I'm also doubling each school's number of spells at each level and redefining what the schools can and can't do. But this should stop much of the higher level abuse.

My thoughts on the subject.

ocato
2008-10-03, 12:07 AM
Honestly, the whole Batman scary scary hooga booga I hear around here seems to be almost entirely centered on boards like these. I've played with a few "batman" wizards and, while I admit they might just have all been gawd awful at it, it seems they have a terribly large chance of dying. People point out how Batman can do anything because he's prepared for it properly, but then you see the Wizard with 3 things on his belt and non of them are Batman Brand Shark Repellent rofl his way down the gullet of Sharko Sharkington. Sure, on the message board it's easy to say "when in X situation, cast Y," but in my experience, actual play seems to be more along the lines of "Crap! X situation! Cast Y!" "I didn't prepare it! I was expecting Z so I prepared spell V!"

As for 'balancing' casters, that falls on the DM to keep your players in line. Don't let them use the same trick ad nauseum. If they pull the right spell out and save the day, let them have their victory. If they waltz through the dungeon using certain spell combinations/tricks to handle everything as easy as Sunday morning? You're not challenging them properly.

In the words of the Joker, "Ah-ah-ahhh, Poppa Spank!"

Lorien077
2008-10-03, 01:49 AM
XD Thanks Zeta Kai, sometimes I have typos and I appreciate the reminder. :P

Baron Corm
2008-10-03, 02:13 PM
Honestly, the whole Batman scary scary hooga booga I hear around here seems to be almost entirely centered on boards like these.

It seems to have gone away actually :smalltongue: