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Sunday, 23rd September, 2012, 03:30 PM #1
If an option is presented, it needs to be good enough to take.
I was having a discussion with a friend of mine the other day, and he said something to the effect of: "I think blasting spells should be less good than melee combat because that's not what wizards are supposed to be doing. Wizards should be mostly about utility spells."
And this annoyed me, and I realized that this was what I really hate about Paizo. (Don't worry, this will relate to 5e at some point.) The idea that game designers should write an option into the game and deliberately underpower it for whatever cruel reason is foolish and encourages system mastery. As an example of this, the Pathfinder take on the VOP monk trades all your magic items for a few extra ki points a day. According to Sean K. Reynolds, it's okay for this to exist because "poverty sucks."
Naturally, what happens with this is that new players select an underpowered option and whoops it sucks lol, which then frustrates and discourages them while simultaneously encouraging an elitist sytem of character optimization.
Thus, 5e needs to take this lesson to heart: no deliberately underpowered junk. Not everything needs to be perfectly balanced, but if the developers include an option available to players, it needs to be rougly equivalent in power to the other options.
As a side note, this generally punishes non-casters more than casters. Why? Because realism or whatever. (This thread was sparked by a debate about tripping monsters in Pathfinder. The option to trip is available to everyone, but in order to use it, you have to specialize greatly, and even then, you'll probably suck at it. And the response to this was, "Well, monsters are hard to trip, duh.")
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Sunday, 23rd September, 2012, 03:45 PM #2
There is a context in which "poor" choices are still OK. That is, if they extend a character's abilities to cover a weak area, or provide depth that otherwise the PC could not have. A simple example - a fire specialist mighty still choose a non-optimal cold spell, so that they have a valid option to fight creatures that are immune to fire. In 4E, melee characters often benefit from having an low-damage close burst or area attack as a fall back in case they end up fighting invisible creatures, or are blinded.
Otherwise, I agree. I don't want to be presented with a bunch of "realistic" or "logically should exist" choices for character building, that are covering up decent helpful choices.
Sunday, 23rd September, 2012, 08:11 PM #3
Scout (Lvl 6)
Pathfinder was great in some ways, but terrible in others, and yes, I think it's mostly due to the unneccesary over-nerfage of options.
Definitely concur that all options should be viable.
In PF you needed high system mastery to even build a decent barbarian (since e.g. a fighter or an alchemist would kick your butt without even trying very hard).
I think not balancing the options is a result of not giving enough playtest time to iron out the bugs before printing, or just not opening up the online tools to the playerbase to fix broken kruft.
Have some faith in the players a bit. There is NO way any company can iron out in advance, all the bugs, but if errata are allowed, they need to be OPTIONAL and COMMUNITY-DRIVEN.
In the era of PDFs and online auto-errata, there is NO excuse for the mangled mess of krusty feats and useless magic items and terrible classes such as 4e had.
I'm not saying PF is necessarily better -- I've only played a dozen or so archetypes so far), but many more options are fun and viable to me, whereas in 4e I just could not get away from the system mastery aspect to have fun in it.
On the other hand, if I wanted to play, say, a 2WF in PF, I'd pick the archetype for the fighter and be done with it, but that doesn't mean it didn't suck, in practice it played boringly and very static and so on (a side effect of the full attack action / 5 ft sludge
Very good point to bring up, but the solution IMO is a framework where the community can vote on and propose fixes to items/feats/builds/whatever, and the errata can be applied optionally or in tandem, so that existing campaigns and characters are not broken 1/2 way through (this happened to us countless times...and derailed our campaign too often to continue. errata can be quite disruptive, especially when sometimes the fixes are worse than the problem).
Sunday, 23rd September, 2012, 08:22 PM #4
Lama (Lvl 13)
Slightly tanget to what you rightfully identify as a problem is the problem of a false choice. Right now, in 5e, if you want to play a wizard, it is really hard not to choose the Magic User specialty. If you want to play a rogue, it is kind of mandatory to pick the Lurker specialty, or at least it seems that way to me.
And, straight to your point, I think Jack of all Trades as a specialty is a horrible choice. It really doesn't fit in the same league with the other specialties (especially Toughness - which is probably too good for fighters especially).
I'm hoping there will be many more backgrounds and specialties available so that it is possible to make a different kind of wizard or rogue or cleric or fighter rather than just matching the best option for the class.
Sunday, 23rd September, 2012, 09:10 PM #5
Myrmidon (Lvl 10)
There are a lot of games I've run where Vow of Poverty is just a freebie. In it's Pathfinder form, I'd just allow it because it won't throw things terribly out of whack. Who would begrudge the monk a couple ki points?
On the other hand, if they powered it up to be "worth it" to never use gear (such as the 3.5 version), you'd need to make sure it wasn't allowed if your campaign went a gear-light direction. Which means, you need to know if your game is going to end up gear-light during character creation.
Similarly, in a campaign with a lot of humanoid enemies, a powered-up trip could end up being really annoying. But the current version is probably pretty good.
What I'm trying to say is: I don't mind if an option is "bad" as long as it's a valid choice for somebody's game. What I don't want to do is go around outlawing options in the games they're good for.
So, I'd rather the Undead Killer specialization suck in 90% of games and shine a little in my zombie apocalypse than have it be "valid" in every game and say "Sorry, you can't play an Undead Killer. Too many zombies."
Sunday, 23rd September, 2012, 09:37 PM #6
Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)
Agreed. If an option exists, it should be good enough to take.
And also the flip side: no option should be so good that taking it is a no-brainer (see 3e's Natural Spell feat for Druids).
Different classes have different skill-sets, and it's therefore not unreasonable for some of those options to be worse than others - after all, the Wizard has a whole bunch of other stuff he can do, whereas the Fighter has comparitively fewer options, so it's not unreasonable that the Fighter be better at those fewer options.
That said, that does open up the potential for a Warmage or similar class that trades that wider set of options for better blaster magic, either by getting access to the spells at lower levels, or getting more of them, or whatever.
Sunday, 23rd September, 2012, 10:31 PM #7
I'd say this: every option should do what it says it will as effectively as possible.
The distinction is that some weird options should be available for those who want them (for RP or other reasons), even if they're not completely optimal from a min-maxing perspective.
For example, an archer cleric is probably not as effective overall as a priest cleric or an archer fighter. But if I'm making an elven cleric of Corellon, it might appeal to me anyway. Should WOTC disallow this combo (perhaps by heightening the prereqs for the archer specialty), or strengthen it to parity with more typical combos? I'd say no to both: the archer cleric should be possible but should not be encouraged explicitly.
As for the blaster mage: it's fine to design the wizard class so that it focuses more on utility and less on firepower (if that's what WOTC is going for). But the way to do this isn't to make evokers suck; it's to make it so that even an evoker has a decent amount of utility in their spells along with firepower. So maybe a warlock can hit for more damage, but the evoker can impart more status effects with his spells (or something). If you make an evoker like this and then refuse to do anything but nuke for max damage and not take advantage of your utility powers, you're in the same position as a fighter who only hits people with an oar: exactly as effective as you deserve to be.
Sunday, 23rd September, 2012, 10:32 PM #8
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
I 100% agree with the OP. A wizard shouldn't have poor blasting skills because he does so much other cool stuff. Instead it should be made so that every option the CLASS has is equal, but any given CHARACTER can only use a few of them. This allows characters of the same class to be distinctly different, doesn't punish players with low levels of system mastery, and prevents any single class/character from monopilizing game play.
Sunday, 23rd September, 2012, 10:59 PM #9
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
I am fine with the option of trading power for versatility. One of my favourite characters mechanically could take on multiple roles in an encounter: diplotmat, party-buff/heal, self-buff/dps or nuke. Except for the diplomat part, every other character in the party was better at each of those roles. The pure cleric was a better party-buff/healer, the fighter as better dps, the nuking was better done by both the other cleric and wizards.
... You might ask why I wanted to play such a character? Well, because it's fun playing a character that's always useful. Letting the Wizard primarily rely on utility spells, but giving them the secondary role as nuker sounds good to me. To me it looks like 5e will let you create more or less specialized characters, with the less specialized characters having better secondary roles.
Now I am all for not adding options that are terrible, like Toughness in 3e. 3hp for a feat? Maybe useful to begin with but lousy as the game goes on. And sooo boring.
Sunday, 23rd September, 2012, 11:03 PM #10
Defender (Lvl 8)
But I think the OP makes an interesting point about those sorts of "trade-offs" turning into traps to ensnare the unwary. A high level of system mastery (relatively speaking) would be needed to avoid them, and lots of players don't yet or never will have that.
If a player looks at a wizard and sees fireballs and gouts of flame, he is going to be tempted. "Sweet," he thinks, "I'll be a total spell-flinging bad@$$ just like all those mages I know from fiction!" Then, come gameday, he sits there with a sad face because his fighter friend with a bow is doing essentially the same thing he is (damage at a distance), but much better.
If you are going to give the wizard the option to be a blaster, you need to balance it so that blasting is fun to do. Otherwise you might as well omit the option and save people the frustration of being naive enough to take it.