Re: Player's Handbook 2 - Feats

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Re: Player's Handbook 2 - Feats

Post  Neubert on Mon Apr 27, 2009 10:11 pm

First of all, I must have missed your earlier post about the balance of special defenses, it was a good read. Seems like Wizards came to the same conclusion as you.

In regards to the expertise feats (and the fact that players only need +2 to even out the math) - perhaps Wizards wanted to give players a higher to-hit in general? I know a lot of people (including my players) has moaned about not hitting that often (as we also talked about in regards to my house rule).

Now, on to the most important part of this post.
You mention that Paragon/Robust Defenses are the math-fixing feats introduced. While I agree that they are powerful (powerful enough to be math-fixers), I find it weird that they would invalidate the defense-boosting PHB1 feats (Iron Will, etc) and their big brothers, introduced at epic level in PHB2 (Indomitable Will, etc) by giving a feat bonus to the defense.
Also, you don't touch on the three feats "Epic Fort/Ref/Will" that give a +4 untyped bonus to their respective defense. I think these might even be more powerful than the Robust Defenses feat.

The monster gains +29 to hit over the course of 30 levels.
A person in light armor gains: +2 for masterwork bonus, +6 enhancement bonus, +15 from level and +4 raising their stat. In total, 27.
The "Epic Will/Fort/Ref" feats can be seen as bringing the math even (except for the third defense, which will only get a +1 bonus from raising stats), by giving an untyped +4, which might indicate that AC should have been 2 higher when reaching level 30.
Do you think Wizards intended for AC to drop slightly, and for the players to make it up with feats (such as armor specialization)? You mention this in your post about the balance of the special defenses (although you're talking about to-hit at the time). And if that is so, why introduce (the very powerful) Paragon/Robust Defenses when the players already have the tools (in form of Iron Will, etc and Indomitable Will, etc) to fix their defense scores?
And if you do not think that Wizards intended for AC to drop slightly (in which case armors should grant another 2 AC while going to level 30), then wouldn't both the "Epic Will/Ref/Fort" and the "Paragon/Robust Defenses" feats be math-fixers?

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Re: Re: Player's Handbook 2 - Feats

Post  Admin on Thu Apr 30, 2009 8:52 pm

I agree that the fixed +1 to hit from Expertise is not necessarily a bad thing. Players do like to hit. Plus, if the characters get stronger, they have to fight higher-level monsters. And the most annoying part of fighting high-level monsters is having trouble hitting them. On the other hand, I was never really complaining about the accuracy before, so overall I am indifferent to the fixed +1 to hit.

I seem to have overlooked the fact that Epic Reflexes and such are not feat bonuses, but everything else is a feat bonus. I published a correction blog entry that you should find interesting.

Now about the way the math works. So clearly, the standard sources players use for hit and AC bonuses (level, stat, magic bonus, masterwork/expertise bonus) are not enough, they only give +37 every 40 levels.

First, if the players gained +1 every level from these sources, they would be gaining faster than the monsters, because these aren't the only sources. Players also gain occasional plusses from feats, utility powers, magic items, paragon/epic features, and the effects of attack powers. For instance, things like Back to the Wall, the +4 on action point attacks of many paragon paths, the ever-increasing hit bonus of Righteous Brand, rerolls from a magic item, increased chances of combat advantage from invisibility, whatever. Many of these are rare individually, but together they must add up to something. Also, epic characters often have +1 critical chance, which has a similar mathematical effect to having +1 to hit. I'm not sure there are as many defense bonuses for the characters, but there certainly are some.

Second, even if players don't get enough hit and defense bonuses with levels, they do get tons of weird and useful abilities from feats, magic items, paths, and utility powers. Monsters just have a fixed mathematical progression. So something has to compensate the monsters for all of those incredible abilities the players are getting. The players are getting all of these crazy epic powers (like, "when you die, come back twice as tough"), where is the big jump for the monsters? Maybe it is supposed to be in the attack and hit chances. I certainly haven't felt that, overall, high level monsters have an edge over high level players, even when they are annoyingly harder to hit. Indeed, my impression was the other way around.

As to whether Wizards intended any of this, that's a mystery to me. I mean, half of D&D is a brilliant tour de force in game mechanics, and the other half has the most basic mathematical blunders. Considering the blistering rate at which they are publishing expansions, maybe time pressure is to blame. Maybe they are like, "Well, it's not quite right, but it's good enough to publish. Ship it!"

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Re: Re: Player's Handbook 2 - Feats

Post  Neubert on Fri May 01, 2009 11:50 am

Yes, it I was about to post a response to your post when I noticed your response in this thread.

For some statistics on monster attacks and defenses, see this post:
http://www.enworld.org/forum/d-d-4th-edition-rules/229092-lots-statistics-monster-manual.html
Attacks against NAD's becomes much more likely as you advance in levels.

I've been reading a (very long!) thread about non-ac defenses on ENWorld, which seems to suggest that monsters need to roll less than 10 to hit all defenses - even a characters strong defense. This is fixed through the 4 feats giving +6 to all defenses.
The link below is to a post that mentions this, but there is no mathematical proof in it:
http://www.enworld.org/forum/4748158-post158.html
I believe the character in the example above is a fairly average one. That means a problem may occur if the players really min/max their character and become "impossible" to hit.

I agree that (from what I've heard) players seem to gain a lot in power (especially at level 11 and 21), but the monsters follow a linear formula that may not increase fast enough.
I think one problem is that attacks against AC is usually a minor nuisance at higher levels, as they only do straight damage and most do not impose status effects (something which is also discussed in the thread above). It is the NAD attacks players fear - and rightfully so! As far as I can tell, the damage is the same as an attack against AC, but it is usually followed by a status effect.
There has already been some errata made to some Brute monsters, in order for them to do more damage, but perhaps this was not enough.

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Re: Re: Player's Handbook 2 - Feats

Post  Admin on Sat May 02, 2009 3:28 pm

Thanks for the post links.

Your point about the NAD attacks being more important than the AC attacks makes a lot of sense now that I think about it. I'd noticed that epic level monsters tend to cause pitifully low amounts of damage with their single-target attacks. I mean, just look at Orcus; his basic melee attack is the equivalent of a level 1 solo which only causes 1d8 damage! If it weren't for the aura and the touch of death, the players would die of boredom before dying from his melee attacks.

We can check out the math for high level defenses ourselves. Let's take a character built in my style - a Goliath Tactical Warlord with light shield, starting with 18 Str, 15 Int, 12 Cha. At level 1 he has AC 17, Fort 15, Ref 13, and Will 12. This points out the first issue right away. Wizards builds monster attacks vs. NAD's as two points less accurate than attacks vs. AC. But the actual difference, even at first level, is bigger, at least 3 points. So you would always expect attacks vs. NAD's to be quite accurate. Now, I typically fight monsters one level higher, and monsters attacks are +5 vs. AC, +3 vs. NAD's. So the monsters hit on 10 vs. AC, 10 vs. Fort, 8 vs. Ref, and 7 vs. Will.

At 12th level, with +3 items, we have AC 28, Fort 26, Ref 24, Will 21. The only change is that the monsters hit Will on a 5. If we choose to take paragon defenses, our NAD's are actually slightly up on AC compared to first level - unless we took an armor feat, in which case it cancels out.

At 17th level, with +4 items, we have AC 32, Fort 29, Ref 28, Will 24. Now they hit 9 vs. AC, 8 vs. Fort, 7 vs. Reflex, and 3 vs. Will. Even with Paragon Defenses, they hit 4 vs. Will. Pretty depressing.

At 22nd level, with +5 items, we have AC 37, Fort 34, Ref 33, Will 29. Old rules, they hit 9 vs. AC, 8 vs. Fort, 7 vs. Ref, 3 vs. Will. But now we have Robust Defenses - 10 vs. Fort, 9 vs. Ref, 5 vs. Will. This is not bad at all. If we get Epic Reflex, they need a 13 to hit Reflex. Holy cow, what's going on? It is suddenly hard to the monsters to hit us. They are in trouble now.

At 30th level, with +6 items, we have AC 44, Fort 40, Ref 39, Will 34. Old rules, they hit 8 vs. AC, 6 vs. Fort, 5 vs. Reflex, 0 vs. Will. Ouch. Now, assume we get Scale Armor and all the new NAD-boosting feats. We are up to AC 45, Fort 46, Ref 45, Will 40. Now the monsters need 9 vs. AC, 12 vs. Fort, 11 vs. Ref, 6 vs. Will.

BTW, I replied (somewhat belatedly) to your post on Focus Fire. Do you have any way of knowing when this happens?

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Re: Re: Player's Handbook 2 - Feats

Post  Neubert on Mon May 04, 2009 7:05 pm

[snipped example character]
At level 1 he has AC 17, Fort 15, Ref 13, and Will 12. This points out the first issue right away. Wizards builds monster attacks vs. NAD's as two points less accurate than attacks vs. AC. But the actual difference, even at first level, is bigger, at least 3 points.
This also depends how you define attacks on NAD's. I agree that the difference is greater than 2, but it completely depends on which NAD you look at. It would be wrong to look at the worst NAD and compare it to AC - so an average of the best and "middle" NAD (which I guess you've done?), would be better. So with this sample character, his best save (Fort) and his AC are hit evenly. The question is, if the middle NAD should be hit more often than AC and the best NAD the same as AC (as it is now), or if it should actually be shifted so the best save are hit less than AC and middle save around the same as AC? We can't know of course, and it is up to our own interpretation. So whether it is an issue or not is hard to say.

The difference between the Fort and Ref defense changed between 12th and 17th level from a difference of 2, to a difference of 1. What changed that (minor math error)?

At 30th level, with +6 items, we have AC 44, Fort 40, Ref 39, Will 34. Old rules, they hit 8 vs. AC, 6 vs. Fort, 5 vs. Reflex, 0 vs. Will. Ouch. Now, assume we get Scale Armor and all the new NAD-boosting feats. We are up to AC 45, Fort 46, Ref 45, Will 40. Now the monsters need 9 vs. AC, 12 vs. Fort, 11 vs. Ref, 6 vs. Will.
So what is the conclusion? To hit AC seems a little low to me, it is after all a melee character with a (light) shield. The other defenses seem reasonable however. Two defenses that a a little above average and one (quite a bit) under. Assuming the Reflex is a math error and should be 10, then Will might be a little on the low side (I would have liked the defenses to be 12/10/7). If it isn't a math error, a point can be shifted from Ref to Will and we have that exact picture.

Second question is how this looks if someone wants to focus on their NAD's? If we hand out a +6 to each defense and keep Great Fortitude and the other defense boosting feats in the game, then a player can spend 3 feats to reach defenses that requires the monsters to roll 14/13/8. To me that seems reasonable for a character that is focusing quite heavily on defense.

BTW, I replied (somewhat belatedly) to your post on Focus Fire. Do you have any way of knowing when this happens?
I've replied. I'm not sure if you mean if I have an idea of knowing when you reply or if you mean something in regards to the post?

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Re: Re: Player's Handbook 2 - Feats

Post  Neubert on Mon May 04, 2009 9:01 pm

I just remembered something. Boosting all the NAD's reduces the damage the players take by quite a lot. I have done some calculations in an Excel sheet, but that will have to wait till tomorrow.

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Re: Re: Player's Handbook 2 - Feats

Post  Admin on Tue May 05, 2009 1:18 pm

The one point variation in Reflex vs. Fortitude is caused by the fact that the character starts with even Strength but odd Intelligence, so it alternates which one gets an actual increase in the bonus, and at 16th level Intelligence goes from 19 to 20 and its bonus increases, but Strength goes from 22 to 23 and its bonus doesn't increase.

The average of the three defenses would be the pertinent comparison, so the difference between AC and NAD's starts at 3 2/3 for this character. The characters cannot select which NAD to use against a given attack, so all three are equally important and should be averaged equally. You would want to skew this average toward the lowest NAD if the monsters can target multiple NAD's and choose the weakest one, or the monsters can choose to attack the player most vulnerable to their attack. I don't normally do this. You would want to skew towards the highest NAD if there are monsters with different NAD attacks and the players can control which monsters attack which players. While this is possible in theory, I haven't found this to happen in practice, there are usually other tactical considerations controlling who attacks who. Now, if you start getting a huge discrepancy in defenses, it might become worthwhile for the players to make tactical sacrifices in order to better control who is attacked by which monster. But this wouldn't change the original point, that low-level characters start off with a 3-4 point average discrepancy.

You are right, it isn't clear whether an attack against the average NAD should be more accurate than an attack against AC, or not. It doesn't really hurt anything for this to be the case - when I rate monsters, I just take into account that NAD attacks are more accurate. However, two small things suggest that this is a mistake. First, character magic attacks vs. NAD's are not particularly more accurate than weapon attacks vs. AC. Second, the guidelines in the DMG for building characters don't mention that you should give monsters stronger attacks if they target AC than if they target a NAD.

I think that a 9 to hit AC is very reasonable at 30th level, considering how many little powers the players might have to boost defenses or lower monster attacks. Then the average NAD accuracy should be 7-8 to parallel 1st level. I think that 12/11/6 overshoots the mark. But it all of these numbers are at least in the realm of reasonableness, and it ends up depending on how you design the monster. If the monsters at high levels don't do much with their AC attacks, and tend to be weak compared to the players, it may make sense to fight monsters which are 2 levels above the players and let them be very accurate against AC while having only average accuracy against NAD's. But there are lots of ways to design monsters vs. players.

What I can say is that needing a 3 or 4 to hit Will at 17th level is annoyingly unfun, and none of the new feats will fix this problem.

Spending three feats to get +2 on all NAD's seems fine to me.

My question about the post is whether you have a way of knowing when I reply to one of your comments. If I hadn't just told you that I replied, would you have ever known that I wrote a (rather belated) reply?

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Re: Re: Player's Handbook 2 - Feats

Post  Neubert on Thu May 07, 2009 10:09 am

I think that 12/11/6 overshoots the mark.
What I can say is that needing a 3 or 4 to hit Will at 17th level is annoyingly unfun, and none of the new feats will fix this problem.
So would you say that without robust defenses (10/9/4), but then with a slight boost to the weakest defense would be "hitting the mark"?
Actually, we should look at the total amount of points in the NADs, as the exact values of the defenses might vary from character to character (but the total amount shouldn't change much) and right now we are discussing on a rather small basis (1 character). So 12+11+6 = 29 points together on the three defenses. That could give us 12/10/7 (theoretically), is that closer to "the mark"? Or if not, what would you consider that be? (both in terms of total amount of points and their distribution).

My question about the post is whether you have a way of knowing when I reply to one of your comments. If I hadn't just told you that I replied, would you have ever known that I wrote a (rather belated) reply?
Alright, that's what I thought.
No, I wouldn't have known - though maybe if I had an account of some sort..?

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Re: Re: Player's Handbook 2 - Feats

Post  Neubert on Thu May 07, 2009 10:18 am

So, I wrote up a progression for giving players the boost to NADs that the feats would give (both epic [defense] and robust defenses).

At level 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30, the players get a cumulative +1 bonus to all NADs.

This would also help on the issue you mentioned where a character of level 17 is hit on a 3-4.

You could move the first bonus to level 1 (and then level 5, 10, 15, etc - except 30) if you want to up the defense for the starting character.
I intentionally avoided the levels 11 and 21 because players usually see big power boosts at those levels.

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Re: Re: Player's Handbook 2 - Feats

Post  Admin on Thu May 07, 2009 5:11 pm

Sounds like a reasonable method of progression.

There is a mechanism to become a "follower" of my site, you'll see I have two already. I think this is related to RSS feeds.

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Re: Re: Player's Handbook 2 - Feats

Post  Neubert on Fri May 08, 2009 8:59 am

Okay, I've subscribed to the RSS feed now. That was easier than I had thought Smile

Did you miss my questions in my previous post (about what would be "hitting the mark" in terms of defenses)?

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Re: Re: Player's Handbook 2 - Feats

Post  Admin on Fri May 08, 2009 3:20 pm

It is tricky to say for sure what would be hitting the mark because of the factors involved. I think it is OK if the monsters need about a 10/9/6 to hit the players, that is great. But I'm not feeling very clear on this whole issue because I haven't had a chance to play at epic level, and I'm not sure whether the epic-level monsters are tough enough. If not, do you use higher level monsters, or do you boost the stats (like, increasing the wimpy amount of damage caused). If you use higher-level monsters, it changes the hit probabilities. And if you use the new feat bonuses to defense, you need tougher high-level monsters than you would without it.

All I know is that I tried out a few high level paragon fights, and I found the extent to which some rolls became very difficult and some very easy was annoying, not as much fun as playing at 1st level where everything is balanced.

Actually, I know what I think is wrong and how this could be fixed, I just haven't had a chance to write a formal article yet. 4th edition D&D is designed to scale elegantly with levels, but this scaling is broken by the fact that only 2 statistics increase each level. If you increased every stat every 4 levels, a lot of the scaling issues would go away. Then you could just give amulets the same masterwork bonus as light armor, and presto, everything would be perfectly balanced.

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Re: Re: Player's Handbook 2 - Feats

Post  Neubert on Sat May 09, 2009 10:17 am

I think that it should be harder than average for the monster to hit the best save of the PC, so the monster is penalized for having to attack a strong defense (just like it is for the PC's attacking monsters), so I am not sure I agree with 10/9/6.

I have heard the epic monsters (and to some degree the paragon tier ones) are not tough enough. At higher levels, players will have access to death-defying abilities, which makes monsters seem less of a threat, but the problem also seems to be that the damage they deal are too low compared to the DMG guidelines (and I am not even sure if the DMG guidelines are enough).
Once you boost the PC's NAD's, you will even further reduce the damage that players take.

I think monsters need more offense and less defense (as MM2 seems to be doing it).

You mentioned the problems with the stat increases - there has been some suggestions for fixes on ENworld where you up 3 stats every 4 levels (though this fix assumes you pick stats for each defense). My problem with that fix is that you will increase a third stat (not that it would completely break the game, but it also adds to skills for example), and the fact that all PC's in that case will become either very strong or durable, very intelligent or dexterous and either very wise or charismatic.
In total, you only have 8 ways to make a character.


On a side-related note:
I have a hard time wrapping my head around monster damage. I am wondering if and how monster damage is balanced when some monsters get to make a single attack as a standard action (with that attack following the DMG guidelines) and some monsters get to make 2 attacks (usually 2 x basic attack, but the basic attack can be mean in themselves), which also follow the DMG guidelines for damage?

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Re: Re: Player's Handbook 2 - Feats

Post  Admin on Sun May 10, 2009 5:31 pm

If you want to maintain the same level of monster damage output, the DMG guidelines are clearly wrong. The guidelines say a 5th level monster does 1d10+4 (9.5) damage and a 26th level monster does 3d8+9 (22.5) damage, about 2.2 times as much. But a level 26 character has more than 3 times the hit points of a level 5 character. However, the damage output doesn't tell the whole story by itself, you have to look at the whole monster. But my impression is that the damage output is, indeed, insufficient. Certainly it is insufficient if the monster doesn't have wicked status effects, auras, area powers, or whatnot. I mean, those efreet just don't cause a lot of damage - and they'd better hope the foe doesn't have fire resistance, or they are really in trouble.

If you look at my own estimates for how powerful a monster should be based on a natural progression from the heroic-level monster manual, average damage should be 6+level, plus the monsters should have special powers (rechargables and such) that increase the damage output by up to 50%. An offense-oriented monster at level 23 should be causing something like 4d10 + 8 + ongoing 10; this is a lot more than I'm seeing.

You may be confused by the balance because they tend not to balance things mathematically at all, so in many cases the balance will be completely off from what you might expect. They do not, in general, make any consistent attempt to match the power of the monster to the level. Did you read my article on this long ago,
http://gamedesignfanatic.blogspot.com/2008/09/d-monster-level-balance.html

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Re: Re: Player's Handbook 2 - Feats

Post  Neubert on Sun May 10, 2009 7:24 pm

Hmm, I think I read that, but a while ago (when I first found your blog). I guess they didn't really compare the monsters to each other at a given level (or have a formula for building them).

I didn't know about the level + 6 damage (have you posted that somewhere? If so, I don't remember reading it). Your offensive monster also has ongoing damage, is that because it is offensive (so "average" monsters would just do the 4d10 + 8 (30) points of damage)?

The question is how special effects should tie in with the damage? If they are added on top of the damage (as is the case currently in the game), attacks against non-AC defenses is more powerful (as attacks against NADs most often have extra effects besides damage). Reducing the attacks with a set amount could make some effects too good/bad (as there is a big difference between being slowed and being stunned), but making a table for each condition would increase complexity (but might be what is needed).

I love making rules and lists. I have considered making a "point-buy" system for powers, so they can be properly compared.. And now I am considering making some new monster creation rules and rewriting the monsters manual.. But that may be a little too much work. It might still be interesting though, to set up some rules for monster creation.

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Re: Re: Player's Handbook 2 - Feats

Post  Admin on Mon May 11, 2009 9:04 pm

It seems that article is pretty hard to find, I forgot to give it a title. I fixed that, now you can see it at:

http://gamedesignfanatic.blogspot.com/2008/10/question-was-asked-how-long-does-it.html

I actually have variations of the formula for building monsters of specific roles, but I haven't published that. I've been using those as guidelines for a while when making my own monsters. I'm thinking of making some small adjustments to better account for making monsters stronger at higher levels.

Using my guidelines, the special conditions are the equivalent of extra damage on the attacks. For me, if you are serious about balancing, you have to assign a value for each condition, there are just no two ways about it. Although mostly I just estimate. For instance, if a monster dazes you for one round, that's about equal to 5-6 points of damage per tier. If the effect is (save ends), that makes it about 50% better. If a monster has two attacks, that is twice as good - but if it can't double attack using its basic attack, that is not quite twice as good, more like 80%-90% better. If a monster has a power which is twice as potent as its standard attack and recharges on 5-6, the monster is 50% better overall. This lets me evaluate how powerful the monster is for real.

I was just using ongoing damage in my example because the monster manual loves giving high level monsters ongoing damage as a substitute for straight damage, and I was just going with the flow.

I've been publishing my PHB2 analyses at your request (as I get spare time). Are the class power level analyses I just started what you were asking for, or were you more interested in the things we're talking about on the forum?

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Re: Re: Player's Handbook 2 - Feats

Post  Neubert on Thu May 14, 2009 11:13 am

Thanks for the link. Smile

The reason for my request was two-fold. The first reason is what we are discussing here, about the math-fixing feats. The second reason was to get some insight into whether there was any powercreep in PHB2 - and the classes are a big part of that obviously.

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