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  1. - Top - End - #91
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Pex
    Whatever you do, I'm against the very notion of punishing a PC for doing what he's supposed to be doing. No PC should suffer a penalty for using an ability. What constitutes a penalty/punishment could be subjective, but to put a definition on it it's anything that makes it easier for the character to suffer injury/death or be useless.
    Yeah, this doesn't hold up even under most trivial of scrutiny.

    Let's forget all about magic for a moment. What is a Fighter "supposed to do"? Well, they're "supposed to" get into fights. And what is getting into fights liable of causing to you? Pain, injury, incapacitation, death.

    What is a Thief "supposed to do"? They're supposed to steal, to break into places, to be where they aren't meant to be, to take things they're not meant to have, to learn what they're not supposed to know. And what are they risking when doing this? Traps, adverse reaction from guards, nevermind all penalties and punishments prepared by the Law should they ever slip up.

    The most mundane of archetypical "adventurers" are very much defined by specializing in, and getting into high-risk situations. Their primary abilities are only usefull for situations where there is increased risk of punishment, injury, incapacitation and death, and to use their abilities proactively means intentionally getting into such situations. If you can't live with that thought, you shouldn't become a fighter, a thief, or any other sort of "adventurer".
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  2. - Top - End - #92
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Pex View Post
    Whatever you do, I'm against the very notion of punishing a PC for doing what he's supposed to be doing. No PC should suffer a penalty for using an ability. What constitutes a penalty/punishment could be subjective, but to put a definition on it it's anything that makes it easier for the character to suffer injury/death or be useless. For example, losing hit points, risk insanity, suffer long lasting minuses to game statistics, flat out can't do anything for a round or more. If some effect is too powerful for your aesthetic taste don't blame the PC for using it. Either don't have it exist at all or limit how often it can be used and let the PC do something else useful.
    But why have only Ban or Use Limits? Why not have Power with a Price?

    For example, in my game when a character polymorphs/changes shape there is a good chance that they might ''loose their mind'' in the form they have taken and think and act like they were that form. This is a great way to put a dead stop to any and all polymorph wacky stuff...it is simply too much of a risk.

  3. - Top - End - #93
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Frozen_Feet View Post
    Yeah, this doesn't hold up even under most trivial of scrutiny.

    Let's forget all about magic for a moment. What is a Fighter "supposed to do"? Well, they're "supposed to" get into fights. And what is getting into fights liable of causing to you? Pain, injury, incapacitation, death.

    What is a Thief "supposed to do"? They're supposed to steal, to break into places, to be where they aren't meant to be, to take things they're not meant to have, to learn what they're not supposed to know. And what are they risking when doing this? Traps, adverse reaction from guards, nevermind all penalties and punishments prepared by the Law should they ever slip up.

    The most mundane of archetypical "adventurers" are very much defined by specializing in, and getting into high-risk situations. Their primary abilities are only usefull for situations where there is increased risk of punishment, injury, incapacitation and death, and to use their abilities proactively means intentionally getting into such situations. If you can't live with that thought, you shouldn't become a fighter, a thief, or any other sort of "adventurer".
    This seems a misreading of Pex's point. Adventurers take penalties for failing (being hit, getting caught, not evading a trap, etc). He's opposing the idea that you take a penalty as a direct consequence of succeeding. Imagine if that thief had to pay with HP or exhaustion to pick a lock. Imagine if hitting someone with a sword hurt you as well (directly). That's the type of thing he's pointing out.

    On one level, I agree. Find another way of balancing magic other than making it risky (in-game) to use. Not from a fictional level, but from a game level. Making any ability "risky" directly, especially when that risk is shared carries risk itself:

    a) if the risk is small and the magic powerful, it's just an annoyance that will be built around. Examples are the Hellfire Warlock (3.5e D&D) whose abilities gave small CON penalties. First step to building a Hellfire Warlock--find one of the many ways to be immune to that damage. All the benefits, none of the risks.

    b) If the risk is great and the magic powerful, magic will either be ignored or broken (depending on the details). People are risk averse--one of the least-played subclasses in 5e is the Wild Magic Sorcerer, whose abilities have the risk of turning the caster into a potted plant or dropping a fireball at their feet. At level 1. The risk of fireballing your party is too great for most people.

    c) If the risk is minimal and the magic weak, few will be willing to put up with the risk for the marginal benefits. Why even have the risk?

    d) If the risk is high and the magic is weak, then you might as well not include magic at all. Leave that for NPCs.

    Balancing this is a hard, fragile task. Small changes in-game can destroy the balance utterly.

    I still prefer the reduction of versatility approach personally, combined with the "everyone's at least partially magic (even if they don't cast spells)--no Guys at the Gym allowed" approach.
    Last edited by PhoenixPhyre; 2017-11-13 at 08:18 AM.
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  4. - Top - End - #94
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    This seems a misreading of Pex's point. Adventurers take penalties for failing (being hit, getting caught, not evading a trap, etc). He's opposing the idea that you take a penalty as a direct consequence of succeeding. Imagine if that thief had to pay with HP or exhaustion to pick a lock. Imagine if hitting someone with a sword hurt you as well (directly). That's the type of thing he's pointing out.

    On one level, I agree. Find another way of balancing magic other than making it risky (in-game) to use. Not from a fictional level, but from a game level. Making any ability "risky" directly, especially when that risk is shared carries risk itself:

    a) if the risk is small and the magic powerful, it's just an annoyance that will be built around. Examples are the Hellfire Warlock (3.5e D&D) whose abilities gave small CON penalties. First step to building a Hellfire Warlock--find one of the many ways to be immune to that damage. All the benefits, none of the risks.

    b) If the risk is great and the magic powerful, magic will either be ignored or broken (depending on the details). People are risk averse--one of the least-played subclasses in 5e is the Wild Magic Sorcerer, whose abilities have the risk of turning the caster into a potted plant or dropping a fireball at their feet. At level 1. The risk of fireballing your party is too great for most people.

    c) If the risk is minimal and the magic weak, few will be willing to put up with the risk for the marginal benefits. Why even have the risk?

    d) If the risk is high and the magic is weak, then you might as well not include magic at all. Leave that for NPCs.

    Balancing this is a hard, fragile task. Small changes in-game can destroy the balance utterly.

    I still prefer the reduction of versatility approach personally, combined with the "everyone's at least partially magic (even if they don't cast spells)--no Guys at the Gym allowed" approach.
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  5. - Top - End - #95
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    I think risky magic is a fine thing for the game to include. The Hellfire Warlock is an interesting class, and having a character where your big abilities caused backlash in various forms is potentially interesting.

    But it is, in my view, very obviously not how all magic should work.

    Most obviously, there are a bunch of characters who manifestly do magic without assuming the risk of going crazy or turning into demons in the source material. Harry Potter never has to worry that casting too many Summoning Charms will cause him to go insane. Gandalf's magic is limited, but not because he's worried that going all out will cause reality to break down. Even settings that do take the "magic is inherently dangerous" stance often allow protagonists to somehow avoid that danger (see: the Laundry Files). There are definitely people who are worried that if they do too much magic, demons will eat their brains. But there are also people who don't worry that, and if you hardcode "magic makes demons eat your brains" into the game, you've cut out all of those characters.

    But there are also problems with most of the implementations I've seen suggested.

    Sometimes the suggestion is that magic has a low risk of some terrible consequence. You make a Spellcraft check, and on a natural 1, demons eat your face. That might be balanced in the abstract, but what happens practically is that casters stomp on mundanes for a while (which isn't fun for the mundanes), and then get killed randomly (which isn't fun for the casters). I guess that's better than having casters stomp on mundanes the whole game, in that you have now spread around the suffering, but it seems like stretch to call it "good".

    Sometimes the suggestion is that magic attracts demons or other monsters. That's something you can do, but again the practical effect isn't what you want. Now in addition to having powers that (potentially) obsolete mundanes, they also generate adventure hooks. In your effort to reduce the power of casters, you've put them in the spotlight more.

    Sometimes the suggestion is that magic somehow makes you crazy or evil. Again, tempting, but it functionally means that casters eventually stop being PCs, which is the same as having a level limit, except it is less fun for the people playing casters.

    I just don't see how "magic hurts you" is supposed to work in a way that actually achieves the nominal goal of making casters less dominant.

    There are two possible solutions here. You cap character power, or you let mundanes get things that are "magic". Everything else is a distraction.

  6. - Top - End - #96
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Pex View Post
    Whatever you do, I'm against the very notion of punishing a PC for doing what he's supposed to be doing. No PC should suffer a penalty for using an ability. What constitutes a penalty/punishment could be subjective, but to put a definition on it it's anything that makes it easier for the character to suffer injury/death or be useless. For example, losing hit points, risk insanity, suffer long lasting minuses to game statistics, flat out can't do anything for a round or more. If some effect is too powerful for your aesthetic taste don't blame the PC for using it. Either don't have it exist at all or limit how often it can be used and let the PC do something else useful.
    I disagree with this. The penalty for using the ability is baked in to it... if someone has the ability to do X, but with Y consequences, then choosing to do X is choosing to take Y consequences. Are you playing a Paladin? Then you're choosing to accept certain restrictions on your actions. Are you playing a Force User? Then you know by taking that unasked for Force Point, you're accepting the Dark Side. If the ability says "You can do X, but you will take 5 points of damage", then you know that doing X will result in 5 points of damage. Or a knockdown. Or what have you.

    The game becomes about choices and what cost you're willing to pay.
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  7. - Top - End - #97
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Cosi View Post
    I think risky magic is a fine thing for the game to include. The Hellfire Warlock is an interesting class, and having a character where your big abilities caused backlash in various forms is potentially interesting.

    But it is, in my view, very obviously not how all magic should work.

    Most obviously, there are a bunch of characters who manifestly do magic without assuming the risk of going crazy or turning into demons in the source material. Harry Potter never has to worry that casting too many Summoning Charms will cause him to go insane. Gandalf's magic is limited, but not because he's worried that going all out will cause reality to break down. Even settings that do take the "magic is inherently dangerous" stance often allow protagonists to somehow avoid that danger (see: the Laundry Files). There are definitely people who are worried that if they do too much magic, demons will eat their brains. But there are also people who don't worry that, and if you hardcode "magic makes demons eat your brains" into the game, you've cut out all of those characters.

    But there are also problems with most of the implementations I've seen suggested.

    Sometimes the suggestion is that magic has a low risk of some terrible consequence. You make a Spellcraft check, and on a natural 1, demons eat your face. That might be balanced in the abstract, but what happens practically is that casters stomp on mundanes for a while (which isn't fun for the mundanes), and then get killed randomly (which isn't fun for the casters). I guess that's better than having casters stomp on mundanes the whole game, in that you have now spread around the suffering, but it seems like stretch to call it "good".

    Sometimes the suggestion is that magic attracts demons or other monsters. That's something you can do, but again the practical effect isn't what you want. Now in addition to having powers that (potentially) obsolete mundanes, they also generate adventure hooks. In your effort to reduce the power of casters, you've put them in the spotlight more.

    Sometimes the suggestion is that magic somehow makes you crazy or evil. Again, tempting, but it functionally means that casters eventually stop being PCs, which is the same as having a level limit, except it is less fun for the people playing casters.

    I just don't see how "magic hurts you" is supposed to work in a way that actually achieves the nominal goal of making casters less dominant.

    There are two possible solutions here. You cap character power, or you let mundanes get things that are "magic". Everything else is a distraction.
    The bold section is something I strongly agree with. I'm in the "Why not both?" camp.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    I disagree with this. The penalty for using the ability is baked in to it... if someone has the ability to do X, but with Y consequences, then choosing to do X is choosing to take Y consequences. Are you playing a Paladin? Then you're choosing to accept certain restrictions on your actions. Are you playing a Force User? Then you know by taking that unasked for Force Point, you're accepting the Dark Side. If the ability says "You can do X, but you will take 5 points of damage", then you know that doing X will result in 5 points of damage. Or a knockdown. Or what have you.

    The game becomes about choices and what cost you're willing to pay.
    In principle, true, but in practice I have yet to see a balance system that works this way and does so well. I think that you'd have to do it as the central feature of the ability system (for all classes/paradigms/archetypes) as opposed to using it as a balancing feature. Otherwise, things that allow you to avoid some of the consequences become absurdly strong.
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  8. - Top - End - #98
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Cosi View Post
    There are two possible solutions here. You cap character power, or you let mundanes get things that are "magic". Everything else is a distraction.
    I think that's only if you have both defined very broadly.

    I think that an easy way to balance magic is to have it work normally on NPCs & most monsters, but have PC classes & special monsters (dragons etc.) have an inherent resistance where they can take a penalty and/or reduce their resistance pool - which could either be separate or combined with HP.

    After all - as you level in D&D HP gives you inherent and undefeatable resistance to being stabbed through the throat and being killed in one shot like you can be at low levels, why shouldn't the same be true of resistance to SoD and/or SoS spells?

    Though - to make that balance you would still have to avoid the 3.x power levels where casters can do things like create pocket dimensions and various craziness. But it could easily balance SoD & SoS spells etc.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by CharonsHelper View Post
    I think that's only if you have both defined very broadly.

    I think that an easy way to balance magic is to have it work normally on NPCs & most monsters, but have PC classes & special monsters (dragons etc.) have an inherent resistance where they can take a penalty and/or reduce their resistance pool - which could either be separate or combined with HP.

    After all - as you level in D&D HP gives you inherent and undefeatable resistance to being stabbed through the throat and being killed in one shot like you can be at low levels, why shouldn't the same be true of resistance to SoD and/or SoS spells?

    Though - to make that balance you would still have to avoid the 3.x power levels where casters can do things like create pocket dimensions and various craziness. But it could easily balance SoD & SoS spells etc.
    Or just not include SoDs or SoS. They either don't work (save) or they work too well (die). Binary, encounter-trivializing abilities are fundamentally boring to a lot of players. Especially if one class (or meta class like spellcasters) has a virtual monopoly on such things.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    Or just not include SoDs or SoS. They either don't work (save) or they work too well (die). Binary, encounter-trivializing abilities are fundamentally boring to a lot of players. Especially if one class (or meta class like spellcasters) has a virtual monopoly on such things.
    That was sort of my idea mechanically without removing them from the setting. It would eliminate them from working on PC foes but still work on NPC style classes.

    Against NPCs they would simply work, while against PCs they would deal damage to the resistance pool and a minor effect; they would only have their full effect if the resistance pool is gone.

    Edit: NPC here is in reference to my previous post and intended as shorthand for "NPC classes" which I should have explained to mean mooks.
    Last edited by CharonsHelper; 2017-11-13 at 12:40 PM.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by CharonsHelper View Post
    That was sort of my idea mechanically without removing them from the setting. It would eliminate them from working on PC foes but still work on NPC style classes.

    Against NPCs they would simply work, while against PCs they would deal damage to the resistance pool and a minor effect; they would only have their full effect if the resistance pool is gone.
    But even against NPCs, they still trivialize encounters. And that's bad. If non-casters had the same spread of SoD (against more than just combat things, but the same "one-ability = one victory" type of thing), it might be better. But then it's either a waste of an action (they saved) or a complete victory (they didn't). I'd rather remove them entirely. No character should be routinely removed from play with a single ability unless the power disparity is huge.

    Max level PC vs mook? Sure. Run narrative combat, cleaving through whole hordes of things.

    Equivalent power levels--no one-hit kills. From anything. That includes uberchargers and mailman sorcerers.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    But even against NPCs, they still trivialize encounters. And that's bad.
    I think that I explained myself badly.

    I didn't mean that they should work normally against all NPCs.

    I meant that they should work normally against mooks. NPC classes in the style of Star Wars Saga Edition where the NPC classes don't get significant HP or abilities. Many systems have similar sort of roles built into the system.

    So - sure a SoD could pop a mook, but if an encounter is only one mook it isn't much of an encounter anyway.

    So - I think we're agreeing and I just didn't explain my terms as well as I should have.
    Last edited by CharonsHelper; 2017-11-13 at 12:35 PM.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    I disagree with this. The penalty for using the ability is baked in to it... if someone has the ability to do X, but with Y consequences, then choosing to do X is choosing to take Y consequences. Are you playing a Paladin? Then you're choosing to accept certain restrictions on your actions. Are you playing a Force User? Then you know by taking that unasked for Force Point, you're accepting the Dark Side. If the ability says "You can do X, but you will take 5 points of damage", then you know that doing X will result in 5 points of damage. Or a knockdown. Or what have you.

    The game becomes about choices and what cost you're willing to pay.
    The devil in the details is the degree of consequences. Let's go with 5E. Paladin smites. Cost - uses up a spell slot. That's nothing. Wild Sorcerer casts a spell. Cost - Become a potted plant and do nothing for the rest of the combat. That's devastating.

    Other ideas:

    Warrior: Benefit: Get extra hit points and attack bonuses for the combat. Cost: Be tired when combat is over limiting what you can do but the danger is passed. (3E Barbarian rage and fatigue.)
    Worrisome if another combat happens soon after but mostly harmless.

    Spellcaster: Benefit: Cast a spell. Cost: Spell has a chance of not doing what you want. Instead it summons a Demon that immediately attacks you. (GURPS roll an 18 on 3d6 for example) Your character is likely now dead.

    My argument is not to make the consequences so severe it punishes the player for the audacity of using it.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by CharonsHelper View Post
    I think that I explained myself badly.

    I didn't mean that they should work normally against all NPCs.

    I meant that they should work normally against mooks. NPC classes in the style of Star Wars Saga Edition where the NPC classes don't get significant HP or abilities. Many systems have similar sort of roles built into the system.

    So - sure a SoD could pop a mook, but if an encounter is only one mook it isn't much of an encounter anyway.

    So - I think we're agreeing and I just didn't explain my terms as well as I should have.
    Yeah, but I'd rather approach that "resistance" that things have in terms of the mechanic that's already there. Hit Points. Blasting should be a good strategy (or at least not a horrible one). PCs and major foes already have more hit points, so that allows spells to do something other than "nothing" or "everything." Mooks are mooks. I like 4e's minion approach--any damage kills them, but they're not affected by misses (some abilities did 1/2 damage on a miss). That allows for hordes of little guys who can hamper and deal damage, but allows blasters and aoe types scythe through them and feel epicly powerful without being OP vs the big guys.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Pex View Post
    The devil in the details is the degree of consequences. Let's go with 5E. Paladin smites. Cost - uses up a spell slot. That's nothing. Wild Sorcerer casts a spell. Cost - Become a potted plant and do nothing for the rest of the combat. That's devastating.

    Other ideas:

    Warrior: Benefit: Get extra hit points and attack bonuses for the combat. Cost: Be tired when combat is over limiting what you can do but the danger is passed. (3E Barbarian rage and fatigue.)
    Worrisome if another combat happens soon after but mostly harmless.

    Spellcaster: Benefit: Cast a spell. Cost: Spell has a chance of not doing what you want. Instead it summons a Demon that immediately attacks you. (GURPS roll an 18 on 3d6 for example) Your character is likely now dead.

    My argument is not to make the consequences so severe it punishes the player for the audacity of using it.
    I do think that in the example of the Wild Mage(s) that one is supposed to be intentionally off the normal charts. The class is supposed to be an outlier extreme risk class not necessarily falling into normal risk/reward rules.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Tinkerer View Post
    I do think that in the example of the Wild Mage(s) that one is supposed to be intentionally off the normal charts. The class is supposed to be an outlier extreme risk class not necessarily falling into normal risk/reward rules.
    And that one is one of the least played (sub)-classes, in large part because that risk doesn't come with compensating power.

    What are the gains in terms of game-play of adding "risk" to an ability (beyond using replenishable, fungible resources like mana or spell slots)? There's already trade-offs--do I use this ability or that ability? Which will be more effective? This one does more damage, but can miss more; that one is more reliable but less powerful. Will I need those resources later?
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    I like 4e's minion approach--any damage kills them, but they're not affected by misses (some abilities did 1/2 damage on a miss). That allows for hordes of little guys who can hamper and deal damage, but allows blasters and aoe types scythe through them and feel epicly powerful without being OP vs the big guys.
    I'm with you. Minions were one of the things which I actually really liked about 4e. But I didn't like how it made all of the classes feel much more 'samey' than other editions. It took the lazy way out to balance - bring them much closer to symmetry.

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    Yeah, but I'd rather approach that "resistance" that things have in terms of the mechanic that's already there. Hit Points. Blasting should be a good strategy (or at least not a horrible one). PCs and major foes already have more hit points, so that allows spells to do something other than "nothing" or "everything." Mooks are mooks.
    Maybe. I think that a second pool can add depth to play. Or perhaps below 1/2 HP SoS could work normally and under 1/4 SoD work. So - they could be worth bringing, but they'll just bounce off a badass PC class unless you wait until they're already weakened and use them to finish them off.

    This could add depth to play, both offensively and defensively as you would need to worry about both keeping HP high enough to stay alive and hopefully high enough to resist SoS and SoD spells.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by CharonsHelper View Post
    I think that an easy way to balance magic is to have it work normally on NPCs & most monsters, but have PC classes & special monsters (dragons etc.) have an inherent resistance where they can take a penalty and/or reduce their resistance pool - which could either be separate or combined with HP.
    That is a power cap. That is a specific decision not to create certain types of powers. I don't necessarily think it's unreasonable to do that, but you should understand that's what you're doing.

    Though - to make that balance you would still have to avoid the 3.x power levels where casters can do things like create pocket dimensions and various craziness. But it could easily balance SoD & SoS spells etc.
    Yes. You haven't solved the core problem -- casters are conceptually less limited than mundanes. People want their casters to summon demon, travel to other planes, and turn into dragons. At least, I do, and I don't think I'm alone in that. And for that to happen (if any notion of balance is to be preserved), mundanes need to get something that is at least as useful as whatever casters happen to be doing. At low levels, that's fairly easy. A 1st level party probably has lots of problems that mundane characters can solve with talents like "being very strong" or "having thumbs". An 11th level party probably doesn't because, if nothing else, they can hire people who are strong and have thumbs. Also, their obstacles are now things like "we want to get to another plane" instead of "we want to get across that chasm".

    Really, if you look at 3e (the prototypical example of the problem), building a mundane that is at least fairly useful in combat is the easy part. An Ubercharger is at least a threat in a high level combat. Probably not as much of one as a Wizard, but you care that he's there. Outside combat, the Ubercharger may as well not exist.

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    Yeah, but I'd rather approach that "resistance" that things have in terms of the mechanic that's already there. Hit Points. Blasting should be a good strategy (or at least not a horrible one). PCs and major foes already have more hit points, so that allows spells to do something other than "nothing" or "everything." Mooks are mooks. I like 4e's minion approach--any damage kills them, but they're not affected by misses (some abilities did 1/2 damage on a miss). That allows for hordes of little guys who can hamper and deal damage, but allows blasters and aoe types scythe through them and feel epicly powerful without being OP vs the big guys.
    My preferred solution is that you let people who have above half HP take 15 (or maybe 10 or 20) on saves. So you can blow up mooks (because they still fail even on a 15), but you have to beat up boss monsters (because they will pass).

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Cosi View Post
    My preferred solution is that you let people who have above half HP take 15 (or maybe 10 or 20) on saves. So you can blow up mooks (because they still fail even on a 15), but you have to beat up boss monsters (because they will pass).
    I still don't get the benefit of having SoD spells. Mooks get blown away by the damage alone, so there's no significant benefit there. It just makes boss monsters and players have effectively half as much HP as is on their sheet--as soon as they go under half, a single SoD can knock them out. Maybe if you had a bonus to saves that depended on HP more linearly, but that's loads of extra work for (what seems to me to be) a very small benefit.

    In my opinion, hard control (total action denial effects like stuns) should last 1, 2 rounds max, on anyone or be breakable in some other common way. Soft control can be harder to break or longer lasting, but only limits actions (slow, movement reductions, etc).
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Snowbluff View Post
    You make a good point for LARGE combat if you have LEGION between your caster and their enemy. But in a lot of games the skill investment or level investment precludes any ability to train for fighting. Since of a lot of games don't have mechanics to keep people from just shooting your caster or pummeling them, casters become worse as the scale of fights gets smaller.
    You're missing my point here. One is that a character doesn't have to be a combatant to be a useful adventurer - someone who can't fight but is a capable guide and medic can be very useful, as can a mage who only has ritual magic*. Secondly the idea that magic doesn't necessarily prevent fighting doesn't need to apply across all games, and absolutely doesn't fit in a lot of them. Your ritual alchemist from Regime Diabloique can still whomp on a bandit or three with sword and musket, as just one example. Magic getting in the way of fighting is usually a deliberate design choice for when magic is useful in a fight, and shouldn't be expected outside of that condition.

    *They're unlikely to work in D&D, but that's because D&D is absurdly combat focused.
    Last edited by Knaight; 2017-11-13 at 03:03 PM.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    I still don't get the benefit of having SoD spells. Mooks get blown away by the damage alone, so there's no significant benefit there. It just makes boss monsters and players have effectively half as much HP as is on their sheet--as soon as they go under half, a single SoD can knock them out.
    If they fail their save. At that point it's a tactical decision whether to attempt the SoS/SoD or just continue to deal damage.

    It's benefit is that it adds tactical depth and variety to play.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    I still don't get the benefit of having SoD spells. Mooks get blown away by the damage alone, so there's no significant benefit there.
    I think there are several reasons to have SoDs, ordered from most subjective to most objective.

    First, it's cool. Letting Darkseid have Omega Beams that kill on contact is cool, and it establishes that Darkseid is a Serious Badass who you have to take seriously (as opposed to someone like Killer Croc or Bane, who is just a bruiser).

    Second, there are lots of abilities that make the most sense as SoDs. Medusas and Basilisks turn people into stone. They don't slightly weaken people they fail to turn into stone.

    Third, it's a distinction you can make between high and low levels. At low levels, you hit people until they fall down. At high levels, you hit people for a while, then you get to pull out Armageddon Blast or Nature's Judgment or Mental Pinnacle or whatever your Moral Kombat style finishing move is. That's a different play pattern, which helps emphasize that high level characters are different from low level ones, which I at least think is important.

    Fourth, it creates more tactical variety. If there are paths to victory that don't run through hit point damage, you can have enemies who are interesting because hit point damage is not effective against them. For example, monsters that have a big pile of DR and AC, but low saves are roadblocks for the Knight and Warmage (who want to win by dealing a big pile of HP damage), but easy targets for the Beguiler and Assassin (who want to win by crippling their enemies with status conditions).

    Fifth, you want fights to end fairly quickly once the outcome is relatively inevitable. If both sides hope to win by grinding down the other's HP total, battles can last a very long time even when the result is not in doubt (particularly if HP is much larger than damage -- this kind of padded sumo was one of the issues with 4e's early combat math). However, if getting a decisive advantage means you can then end the fight, fights don't drag on.

    In summary, save or dies:

    1. Allow for evocative moments where characters can demonstrate their power.
    2. Add tactical and conceptual variety.
    3. Prevent combat from dragging on.

    It just makes boss monsters and players have effectively half as much HP as is on their sheet--as soon as they go under half, a single SoD can knock them out.
    Can, not will. They can still make their save, or have other defenses, or just be one of several enemies.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    1) Not a fan of this. I do think magic should be capable of accomplishing things that you can't do without it; that's why it's magic.

    2) Ow. Even with daily magic people often run into the "I fire my crossbow" while playing lower level casters. Magic having permanent, irrecoverable costs is one way to make playing a magic user not very magical. Honestly that sounds more like a soft ban on people playing casters than anything else.

    3) You have to be careful with this, because usually magic in games is already set up so it might not work. Some kind of attack roll or saving throw or spell resistance generally applies anyway, so before you know it you've got a 50% chance to fail to penetrate SR, a 50% chance for the enemy to make the save, and a 50% chance to actually do what you want, and you've got a 1/8 chance of actually contributing. The other aspect I've seen to this is random rolls for magical backfire which is a dangerous thing to use too. The mage accidentally invoking powers beyond their comprehension and dragging the entire party screaming to hell is a good narrative element, but it's terrible for a cooperative RPG. The first thing you want to do with the guy who is actually a magical ticking hellbomb is shove him out the airlock, preferably into the nearest sun. I'd argue that in games with such a system magical backfires should be able to be mitigated by casting spells at lower strengths, or by intelligent investment in a skill or ability that is used to control magic. It's also just super hard to balance in general. Magic being riskier than "normal" combat means that it has to be more powerful than mundane combat when it works, which means every encounter is either a stomp because your magic is working, or a miserable experience because the caster isn't just not helping, he's actively hurting the party by summoning space AIDS by accident or something. Or everyone is just dead because the DM thought a magic mishap table that includes stuff like "everyone within 60ft gains a permanent insanity" and "the casters body splits open and becomes a portal to the abyss and an archfiend walks out and murders everyone" was a good idea. Seriously guys, at least make these tables scales with the level of the spell, so every first level caster doesn't have a 0.5% chance of obliterating reality every time he casts magic missile. I guess if your game is super high lethality anyway these goofy tables can work, but I've not had great luck with systems where everyone's got a few backup sheets cooking. Hard to get invested in the narrative.

    4) Mundanes should be boosted to do things that are equal in contribution to casters, but not equal in flavor. Punching to raise a wall of stone or jumping through space with just your ripped legs seems a little silly to me personally, but it also means that a "mundane" is just a caster with oilly muscles. Wizards and Fighters should fill different roles. Not trying to "guy at the gym" here, but literally picking up a river with your bare hands and putting it back down doesn't fit into the flavor of a typical fantasy game at all. I actually thought 3.5 handled this fairly well with Tome of Battle Crusaders and Warblades. Maneuvers are similar to spells mechanically but have unique effects that aren't magical and fill different roles, and IMO don't strain the disbelief of what a super skilled fantasy warrior could accomplish. In any case I think people can generally agree that wizards having access to thousands of spells and fighters having access to full attacks and tripping was a mistake. I think 4e actually was on the right trick with it's class powers, although it pushed too far for mechanically unity and lost a sense of identity.

    5) I think forcing casters to specialize into a type of magic is a good idea. It doesn't necessarily mean mundanes are generalists, but if the wizard who teleports people thousands of miles isn't also the wizard who raises legions of undead and rains down fireballs on battlefields, you have a good start. Casters should be able to do some stuff outside their speciality, but shouldn't really be masters of every field of magic unless they're epic or something. Really I think the power level in D&D just needs to be clamped somewhat for a more traditional experience. Fighters don't really have a logical analogue to wizards in the double digit levels. Older editions handled this by making magic users significantly more difficult to level up than fighters. So a level 15 wizard was more powerful than a level 15 fighter, but the level 15 wizard needed a lot more XP to get there.

    6) Everyone playing a caster is one "solution.", but I think you're playing a very different kind of fantasy game then.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    But why have only Ban or Use Limits? Why not have Power with a Price?

    For example, in my game when a character polymorphs/changes shape there is a good chance that they might ''loose their mind'' in the form they have taken and think and act like they were that form. This is a great way to put a dead stop to any and all polymorph wacky stuff...it is simply too much of a risk.
    "Whoops. I rolled the wrong number. Time to make another character."

    I'm OK with magic having self-destructive effects, but I also think that in the interest of gameplay, in most genres, there should be some limit characters can use magic up to without having to roll on the Random Spontaneous Death And Happy Fun Times Table.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cosi View Post
    First, it's cool. Letting Darkseid have Omega Beams that kill on contact is cool, and it establishes that Darkseid is a Serious Badass who you have to take seriously (as opposed to someone like Killer Croc or Bane, who is just a bruiser).
    Except, of course, that Darkseid can't ever Omega Beam anyone important. (And have it stick - thanks, Batman.)
    Written stories and RPGs have very different requirements.

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    Or just not include SoDs or SoS. They either don't work (save) or they work too well (die). Binary, encounter-trivializing abilities are fundamentally boring to a lot of players. Especially if one class (or meta class like spellcasters) has a virtual monopoly on such things.
    You know what ability shows up a lot in myth & legend that is instant-death against most opponents? "Cutting Their Heads Off With A Sword."
    Last edited by Arbane; 2017-11-13 at 04:39 PM.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Zanos View Post
    2) Ow. Even with daily magic people often run into the "I fire my crossbow" while playing lower level casters. Magic having permanent, irrecoverable costs is one way to make playing a magic user not very magical. Honestly that sounds more like a soft ban on people playing casters than anything else.
    I will say - while I'm dubious of using the same system in a D&D style game, it worked pretty well in WFRPG.

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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    And that one is one of the least played (sub)-classes, in large part because that risk doesn't come with compensating power.

    What are the gains in terms of game-play of adding "risk" to an ability (beyond using replenishable, fungible resources like mana or spell slots)? There's already trade-offs--do I use this ability or that ability? Which will be more effective? This one does more damage, but can miss more; that one is more reliable but less powerful. Will I need those resources later?
    I agree the risk doesnt outweigh the rewards, but only because there are other classes that do the same thing without the risk.

    What if the wild mage was the only wizard, however. People would play it then, because the (exclusive) rewards would be greater than the risk.
    Last edited by Psikerlord; 2017-11-13 at 06:17 PM.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    On the save or die topic, I think they should definitely be in the game, they're a much needed option outside of hit point attrition.

    I do think however that ideally all classes should have access to some form of save or die. Some classes might tend to get less than others, is all, in the overall balance of things.

    The cleric might save or die with a 5th level spell, the fighter might gain a 9th level ability that allows it once/long rest. Or whatever (speaking in 5e)

    Speeding up combats with such abilities is a nice side effect, too
    Last edited by Psikerlord; 2017-11-13 at 06:23 PM.
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    I mean, when it comes to hit point attrition, save-or-die effects are hardly the only solution. A better one is "don't make martial combat a cure for sleep deprivation".
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Morty View Post
    I mean, when it comes to hit point attrition, save-or-die effects are hardly the only solution. A better one is "don't make martial combat a cure for sleep deprivation".
    True, quick combats should be the starting point.

    Outside of hit point attrition, save or die, and morale/flee - what else is there to end a DnD fight?
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    Default Re: Changing the "Caster beats Mundane" paradigm

    Quote Originally Posted by Psikerlord View Post
    True, quick combats should be the starting point.

    Outside of hit point attrition, save or die, and morale/flee - what else is there to end a DnD fight?
    Diplomacy? Bribery? Stealing everyone's weapons? The building starting to collapse?
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