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Powerlevels and Pretension: FatR's own fantasy heartbreaker
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PhoneLobster
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 12, 2016 11:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I'm not too interested in the war of big vs small. The exact size of a single specific character building resource has plenty of good reasons to be big or small.
FatR wrote:
And yet another point on the problem of small choices, now applying specifically to 3.X' feats. Why do you (or anyone else) here think there were so many feat taxes in 3.X, and why fighting men in particular were reamed with them whatever they tried?


Because d20 offered different character building resources of different values (correct choice), and Fighters only got one of them (wrong choice). Wizards got to have feats (kinda shit), skill points (shitter), and spells (the good one). Fighters just got feats. Everyone got to have character build resource "taxes"... and fighters had to pay them with lots of feats... because that's all they had. And so they started with less and then their taxes left them with even less of that. If they had the same net types and amounts of build resources as wizards it wouldn't have been a problem.

Ideally you'd give out both small AND big character building resources to ALL characters. Just randomly deciding that some group of characters only gets to have one of the shittier character building resources is never going to end well.

Yeah. And really narrow highly restrictive classes final destination is... not really what most people actually want, but I suppose there is a small market for it what with casual beer and pretzels one off sessions and the general retrograde grognard movement (I've suddenly forgotten the acronym they've been using for themselves...)
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 12, 2016 1:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Hicks wrote:
Instead of focusing on how the feats are big or small or whatever, why not focus on a system that at least kinda-sorta works: Wizard spells. Not in the "I took your spell book so now you can't do prepare anything" bs, or even specifically how they prepare spells at each spell level, but on how you can seriously find a level appropriate ability hiding in a slain manticore's nest. Not happy with how lightning bolt is working out for you? Go learn deep slumber. Tired of taking damage in melee? Search out Stone Skin. For all of how Frank posits that a pile of narratively disparagate abilities is a bad thing, that is exactly what everyone wants the feat system to be: a method for players search for flavorful and narativly relevent abilities, procure them, learn them, and use them between level ups.


I like this idea a whole lot. If you had decent downtime training rules with balanced costs, it would be great to be able to spend the necessary resources to just add Mounted Combat or Still Spell to your list of things you could do.

You could have this reflected in NPCs as well. Now the Elite Lancer Unit doesn't necessarily have to be 5th level (so that they have enough feat slot for all this bullshit) or whatever, they can be 1st or 2nd level schlubs that someone spent time and money training to have all the necessary abilities.

@FatR -- I see the small ability thing as a way for some types of players to feel more actively invested in the game. I've played with enough people that dislike the idea of having to level up a character in downtime--like it's homework--and want all character improvement to happen right there at the table, possibly in the moment.

The spell thing is a really good analogy, because the wizard player can announce that he's going to go learn a few new spells and gets to write those abilities on his sheet right then and use them later in the evening. These people want to be able to do that with any class they're playing. Or be rewarded with new abilities because of things that happen in game. Rather than getting a magic hat that grants a bonus to diplomacy with sylvan creatures, they want to be awarded that ability because they elected to help a satyr caught in a trap or were nice to a brownie or something.
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FatR
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 12, 2016 3:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Certainly people don't like leveling up as a homework. But ever since 3.0 that's just the reality of DnD, at least for long campaigns past low levels. Judging by the fact that it got worse in Pathfinder, having a lot of small powers in your system only contributes to it. Even in skill systems with power levels above that of the common schmucks improvement at the table is only really viable for players who already at down at home and planned their character sheet for hundreds of XP ahead (or are not concerned about their characters sucking). Learning new spells on the fly probably only works because there is no significant opportunity cost for learning spells for preparation casters - if they learn a wrong spell they don't need to use it
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 12, 2016 5:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The leveling system in late era 3.5 and Pathfinder is such a fucking accounting challenge because of limited resources and prerequisites, not because the number of the selections is high or low. That is, you need to spend a certain number of feats on very specific (and often very weird) things by level 6 if you want to qualify for the prestige class you want. And the fact that you only get a specific and limited number of feats by level 6 means that you have to plot this shit out in advance.

The underlying problem is not appreciably changed if you get 3 feats and need 2 specific ones for prereqs or if you get 12 feats and need 8 specific ones for prereqs. The problem is that you have specific limited resources and prerequisites such that what you choose at level 4 has profound impacts on what choices you will have at level 8.

If you hand out a feat every session and then don't use them as prerequisites for things, the problem goes away. Wizards don't have quite the same "homework" experience as Fighters, not because they aren't objectively making more choices (they make two selections or more a level, for fuck's sake), but because each spell choice doesn't appreciably limit their spell choices of the future.

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DeadlyReed
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 12, 2016 9:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So give a feat every session and ignore feats as prerequisites? So a monk could take Vorpal Strike after the 1st session and it's all good?
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erik
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 12, 2016 9:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ignoring feats as prereqs does not preclude them having prereqs themselves. Just like spell levels.
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Omegonthesane
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 12, 2016 9:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Feats having prereqs does not inherently turn feats into an accounting nightmare. Feats being level-gated especially so compared to, er, any other way you could conceivably make feats have prereqs.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2016 7:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

More broadly, you should make the number of choices you get to make as high as possible. Further, you should make the number of choices that noticeably limit future choices to be as small as possible.

Your character should be able to wear a red tunic or a blue one. Your character should be able to use a Bohemian Ear Spoon or a Lucern Hammer. Your character should be able to drink wine or mead. And so on and so forth. And the number of these choices that profoundly limit future options - and thus cause deep and painful decision trees - should be kept to a minimum. So the number of times you are forced to take the red pill or the blue pill and permanently change the landscape of the possible should be small. The smallest number of such choices in a D&D-like game is two: Race and Class. Anything more than that is a conscious choice to make the game more difficult to play.

We accept, we have to accept that if your character is a Halfling that they will never ride a unicorn and that if your character is a Hobgoblin that they will never ride a riding dog. Further, we accept that if your character is a Paladin that they will never learn phantasmal killer and that if your character is an Illusionist that they will never learn holy smite. But why would we accept that your character taking an interest in Mounted Combat or Zen Archery at 1st level necessarily means that they'll never pick up Whirlwind Attack or Shock Trooper when they grow up? What the shit?

And the thing is that any selection of a profoundly limited nature is going to be like that, even if they aren't explicitly gated or chained. Zen Archery is going to implicitly preclude advancing into Whirlwind Attack if the number of feats are low whether or not Whirlwind Attack has a specific prerequisite that Zen Archery does not fulfill. The simple reality is that if you have feats that are few and large, the difference in effectiveness between having Whirlwind Attack and Horde Breaker together versus just having one of those is going to be catastrophic. For any practical purposes, a character who takes Zen Archery and follows it up with a feat that isn't Sniper or Artillerist is going to be a "loser."

Now personally, I am willing to accept a number of major decision points (defined here as decisions which profoundly close the door on other future choices) spaced through the leveling progression. Specifically, I would advocate a "Paragon Class" style choice at the equivalent of 3e level 8 or 9. The choice to become a Witch Queen both thematically and practically can shut the door on selecting Storm Lord or War Mind powers in the future. But there is no compelling reason to have lots of these major decision points, and I would oppose them on principle. Every time you make a choice that's going to change what development options you have a month and a half from now, that puts an undue strain on player planning. And you really shouldn't be asked to do that very many times during the campaign.

-Frank
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virgil
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2016 8:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
We accept, we have to accept that if your character is a Halfling that they will never ride a unicorn
I wasn't aware of there being a size maximum for mounts.
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FatR
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2016 10:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
More broadly, you should make the number of choices you get to make as high as possible. Further, you should make the number of choices that noticeably limit future choices to be as small as possible.

Your character should be able to wear a red tunic or a blue one. Your character should be able to use a Bohemian Ear Spoon or a Lucern Hammer. Your character should be able to drink wine or mead. And so on and so forth. And the number of these choices that profoundly limit future options - and thus cause deep and painful decision trees - should be kept to a minimum. So the number of times you are forced to take the red pill or the blue pill and permanently change the landscape of the possible should be small. The smallest number of such choices in a D&D-like game is two: Race and Class.


Actually, after rolling Abilties and placing them in order, thus largely eliminating choice entirely, became unfashionable, it was three choices: Race, Class, and Abilities.

But anyway, eliminating de jure choice chains does not eliminate de facto synergies, as you've said yourself. In a world where feats are easily available with no prerequisites and you can freely take Whirlwind Attack after Mounted Combat, you still would be much better off taking Spirited Charge. And having separate Knight and Paladin classes won't change that fact, in fact it will increase probability that at least one of those classes won't be benefitting from a specific combination of feats nearly as much. And having 500 feats instead of 50 won't change that fact either, that is unless the vast majority of a character's abilities come solely from feats, which is not the case in my concept - without that you'll just end up spreading the same level of competence over a greater number of feats, thus creating even more de facto chains and mandatory picks, which, as I said before, was what happened to 3.0's Fighter, and, for that matter, to Pathfinder characters in general. As long as there are choices there is the possibilty to choose badly, and it is multiplied by the amount of choices. That is the one of the reasons I want to make as many choices as possible into the power acquisition schedules, such as spells and maneuvers, where making them non-fixed or less harshly fixed requires considerably less mental gymnastics.

Feats/talents, on the other hand, should be not so much defining what you do, as helping to define who you are. There is a clearly big demand for that, but solutions so far were rather far from satisfying. Prestige classes sucked because you needed to wait a lot and gather shitty requirements to be what you wanted to be. PF class archetypes perform this function way better, but being stuck to one, often inherently low-level, identity in a game where you start stabbing goblins and end up stabbing gods is hardly satisfying for the same reason that having Fighters and Rogues go to 20th level is hardly a satisfying solution. Finally, writing a whole new class for each possible identity is not only a super massive, super complicated work but will demand some sort of complex mandatory multiclassing, such as with Paragon Classes you propose, and that will lead right back to planning your build from level 1, as was the case with prestige classes.

So for now I envisage that being a Knight, or an Assassin, or a Necromancer would require taking a talent, with talents available approximately once per tier (thus four choices during an 1-20 campaign), with no prerequisites save BAB/Attributes. Looking approximately like this:

ASSASSIN
You have mastered the art of murder by surprise, be it through stealth or dirty tricks like suddenly drawing your sword and striking with the same motion.
Prerequisites: Dex +1, base attack bonus +1.
Benefit: You automatically score a critical threat if you hit a creature with any light, one-handed or improvised melee weapon in surprise round.

This will still lead to de facto limitations and chains, where you will have to be stupid to pick Necromancer if you do not cast spells, or when picking Rage Master after your first pick was Mounted Archer would be quite suboptimal, but hopefully with a relatively limited number of choices, free of tiny fiddle bullshit options, these chains would be understandable enough to players. And while the element of planning your build from level 1 still would be there, as most power is going to come from spells/maneuvers/manifestations anyway, I believe it would be much less demanding than in the case of your Paragon Classes proposition.



FrankTrollman wrote:
And the thing is that any selection of a profoundly limited nature is going to be like that, even if they aren't explicitly gated or chained. Zen Archery is going to implicitly preclude advancing into Whirlwind Attack if the number of feats are low whether or not Whirlwind Attack has a specific prerequisite that Zen Archery does not fulfill.


And how exactly it won't if the number of feats is high? So far your argument seems to be simply that a hit to a character's competence would be relatively small. My counterargument is that such hits would happen more often and would be more difficult to notice to advance due to sheer number of options.


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hyzmarca
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2016 1:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FatR wrote:

FrankTrollman wrote:
And the thing is that any selection of a profoundly limited nature is going to be like that, even if they aren't explicitly gated or chained. Zen Archery is going to implicitly preclude advancing into Whirlwind Attack if the number of feats are low whether or not Whirlwind Attack has a specific prerequisite that Zen Archery does not fulfill.


And how exactly it won't if the number of feats is high? So far your argument seems to be simply that a hit to a character's competence would be relatively small. My counterargument is that such hits would happen more often and would be more difficult to notice to advance due to sheer number of options.


If you got 5 feats per level, you could, in fact, take both Zen Archery and Whirlwind Attack and have 3 left over.
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FatR
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2016 2:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

If you got 5 feats per level, you would need 100 feats in the game just to have something to select for 20 levels for one character, realistically at least ten times more so that characters won't look like carbon copies. 3.5's PHB had only a bit over 100, including stinky "+2 to couple of skills" feats and blatant feat tax feats. I hope Pathfinder had already demonstrated to us why expanding the number of feats without expanding the overall percentage of a character's power they provide is a terrible idea. If you expand both number of feats and the overall power that can be received from them, then in all likelyhood while a character would be able to have both Zen Archery and Whirlwind attacks, he would be distinctly inferior compared to a charater who picked only archery, or whatever style is overall the best, feats. Just like is the case with 3.X' martials. If feats are supposed to be relatively easily swappable to avoid permanent build locks, why even call them feats? However you look at it, handing out lots and lots of feats only makes sense if they are your main character-building resource, like they were for most martials in 3.X. But (and I'm getting tired of repeating myself) here they aren't and weren't that from the start, and I'd rather cut them entirely - if a better way to implement an equivalent of kits/prestige classes/archetypes/paths&destinies is suggested - than expand their role.

EDIT: In other words, I see introduction of both feats and prestige classes at once in 3.0 as duplicating the effort of giving characters some sort of finer identity than what was determined by their base class (and spells they liked to cast - but as we know having spells was the hallmark of "real classes" anyway). I'd like to not repeat this duplication.

Lots and lots of freely selectable feats might - might - be a fun idea for a hybrid system that attempts to combine levels with customizability of a skill-based system. But judging from my experiences with Exalted, most likely the result will be anything but fun.


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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2016 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FatR wrote:
And how exactly it won't if the number of feats is high?


You're going to have two piece combos. You're going to have three piece combos. Hell, you're probably going to have four piece combos. How big a set of combo pieces do you think that players are going to advocate running as standard optimization? While it's theoretically possible for players to put together one hundred piece synergy bundles (people do in fact make Commander Decks in Magic), you're going to have some kind of limit as to how many moving parts they will advocate or demand.

There is simply an upper limit as to how big a combo the players are going to be able to conceptualize and peer pressure each other about. Players might ask a player who is trying to have their character use a bow why they don't have Artillerist, they might even ask why they don't have Artillerist, Sniper, and Harrier together, but they won't ask why they don't have all of seven different list items. And they certainly won't ask why they don't have ten different list items.

The accepted level of optimization/specialization is going to be a finite number of list items. If the number of selections you get to make is greater than that number of items that is in an accepted optimization unit, then you have extra selections you can make based on personal preference over the "feat tax" portion of your character. If the number is equal or less than that, all your choices are "forced" in the sense that any deviation from the accepted optimization package is you "voluntarily gimping yourself."

You might think that there's no difference between making ten selections from a list of 100 and making 3 selections from a list of 30. But there definitely is. With 3 selections from a list of 30 there are 4,060 possible configurations, meaning that chargen will be "solved" by the player base in less than a week. With 10 selections from 100 choices, there are over seventeen trillion configurations and the player base won't ever solve it if the game cranks on its current form for a thousand years.

Playing an unsolved game means that you still have choice. Playing a solved game only gives you choice to the extent that you have the option to take the right path or refuse to do so.

-Frank
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FatR
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 13, 2016 7:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

This is an interesting line of argument, Frank (I'm not being sarcastic here). I'm going to think on it for a time.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 8:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Exalted is a good example of how you can take a very large list of possible abilities and still reduce it to a solved game where players are forced to take the "right" options, which then become "options." Finger quotes very definitely included.

In Exalted you need various perfect defenses, and you need the ability to actually use those perfect defenses that you have (which in turn requires various power point recharge mechanisms). This leads to a "Column A, Column B" approach which breaks the problem down into bite sized pieces that can be solved by one guy named Jon Chung. While there are dozens of charms dedicated to punching dudes and the possible combinations are in the millions, there are actually only a handful of charms that present the perfect defenses you need to not die. And those charms have various specific prereqs. So you can work backwards from the outputs you know you need to get in order to find that you can count the number of "real" paths on the fingers of one hand.

If you don't do that, then the Jon Chung attack on the character options doesn't work and the game remains unsolvable.

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Dean
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 8:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I have absolutely no interest in choosing 70 feats for my 14th level Sorceror. I often build a girlfriends character too. That design paradigm would make that game completely unplayable to me or most people id imagine. Pathfinders dozens of bullshit dials are very obnoxious but if you expand that to scores upon scores of trait equivalent half feats I wouldnt play that system even if it's balance positives delivered exactly as you believe. Would you play it?
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 9:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Dean wrote:
I have absolutely no interest in choosing 70 feats for my 14th level Sorceror. I often build a girlfriends character too. That design paradigm would make that game completely unplayable to me or most people id imagine. Pathfinders dozens of bullshit dials are very obnoxious but if you expand that to scores upon scores of trait equivalent half feats I wouldnt play that system even if it's balance positives delivered exactly as you believe. Would you play it?


There is absolutely an upper limit to the number of selections you can make before it becomes a chore. The Shadowrun thing where they expect you to buy 400,000 worth of stuff and some things cost ‎1 or less is fucking insane. The thing where you are expected to spend over one thousand chargen points in Eclipse Phase is enough to make me nope the fuck out. I do not believe that making a selection every session reaches that point however.

That being said, you already select about 70 spells for a 14th level Wizard, does that make the game completely unplayable?

-Frank
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Omegonthesane
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 9:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

How much breaks in a Big Feats paradigm if you hardcode from the very beginning in triplicate that you can just retrain all feats whenever you get a new feat slot?

Obviously I've seen and buy the argument that Big Feats which are set in stone when selected are bad due to restricting choices, but if you can hotswap them - whether that's every 3rd level, every single level, every single session, once ever after a few sessions to get used to the game and your preferred style - if you have any retraining at fucking all the opportunity cost of picking the "wrong" feat set is much reduced, compared to not doing that.
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PhoneLobster
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 9:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

There is just about no reason for any system, big feat or small to not include the option for retraining at pretty much the drop of a hat.

It is really rather ridiculous just how much retraining isn't a thing in RPG rules sets when it fucking clearly should be.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 9:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I'd like to see what characters can do without feats first, then it'd give me context to what feats are suppose to be doing in this game.
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FatR
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 9:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Omegonthesane wrote:
How much breaks in a Big Feats paradigm if you hardcode from the very beginning in triplicate that you can just retrain all feats whenever you get a new feat slot?


I don't think it would.

In fact, I do think there is sufficient precedence in fiction where a character who undergones a massive power level growth pretty much entirely forgets about his old tricks. Starting with the story which gave us the term "power levels". Ability to change your old talents so that they support your new archetype, when you get that archetype, should be a passable stylistic fit.

Also, another brief comment for now while I don't have to write my main response - Exalted was and likely still is solvable and solved in all iterations, including those never played by Jon Chung. Its problem was in having only one common defeat condition (removal of all Health Levels) which was incredibly easy to achieve, so characters which could not prevent themselves from getting hit at all were not viable. That's why DnD should keep piles of hit points on one hand, and ability drain, negative levels and instant death on another, and also easy resurrection, making individual characters only parts of their party health track.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 11:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

With retraining there's a balance between 'retrain never' and 'retrain all the time' that needs to be hit. No retraining at all means characters are locked into decisions such that everything becomes build dependent and you're sacrificing advantage in the present for hypothetical build advantage in the future - a future that game may never get too. Which is of course a perverse incentive because assuming the game has specialized abilities that are situationally useful ie. in certain environments or versus certain enemies those should be something to at least consider taking when those things show up.

Retraining all the time creates the problem of too much modularity as players immediately retrain to maximum optimization against whatever the circumstances of the day are and lose individuality. Also in such a system anything that implies someone dedicated themselves to a particular specialization and thereby became badass at this one thing (ex. legendary vampire hunter) becomes impossible.

You probably want the characters to be able to retrain roughly once per story arc, you just need to quantify how often that's going to be. Presumably its tied to some leveling milestone.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 9:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Mechalich wrote:
Presumably its tied to some leveling milestone.

Considering that leveling can be a long way in between... your idea for timing is shit.

If you want to limit retraining some tiny bit you can, but you need a better reason as to why. If we say "well you just need a few days or something" and that results in "hm, lets retrain for anti-fire wizard powers before we fight the fire wizards we know in advance we will be fighting this month" then FUCK YOU just let the players have nice things what the fuck is wrong with you?

Players do not always know what the next adventure/encounter will contain, when they do they SHOULD be allowed to fucking prepare, options that are "only good in like one specific context" would be significantly less trap option if you can readily train into (and more importantly OUT OF) them as appropriate.

But more importantly if you have a sperge out because you don't want players having nice things by being allowed to prepare for threats they somehow know the details of in advance and you limit your retraining interval to level ups, that can mean multiple sessions of players who have identified a major flaw in their prior character build choices making them visibly suck and having to tolerate that for an extended time before a completely arbitrary milestone says they are allowed to start having fun again.

Bad choice. Better to have your free retrain at level up AND some other means in between costed so low that it can easily be made available whenever needed as soon as it is needed. The moment Timmy comes to the realisation that he is a dead weight on the party he should be able to do something about that with absolutely minimal further game play as a piece of dead weight.
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Last edited by PhoneLobster on Sun Aug 14, 2016 9:17 pm; edited 2 times in total
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DSMatticus
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Joined: 14 Apr 2011
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 9:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The thing where wizards rebuild their entire character sheet (okay, only the parts of it which matter) for each encounter is probably not a good thing. Retraining should be a thing you do when transitioning from one concept to another, so that your past choices don't punish you for going down an unexpected path. In that sense, when levelling is a great time to do it.

I am also amenable to retraining for buyer's remorse scenarios, but those are a little bit harder to work in without just declaring that people can swap parts of their character to fit expected encounters and turning everyone into a kind of wizard. Which - again - not a good thing.
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Ice9
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 9:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

There is a thing with prepared abilities where selecting them multiple times in the middle of a session is often desirable IC, but OOC it wastes a lot of gaming time. I think it's not too hard to mitigate though. For a first idea:

You get X configurations for your prepared abilities, and it takes long enough to change those configurations that you don't usually do it in the middle of the game. But you can switch between configurations much more quickly, between every encounter if you want.

Maybe let people switch a small number of slots (1-2) in a configuration without counting as a new configuration, if that doesn't slow things down too much. That would be good for situational abilities like Water Breathing.
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